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Category Archives: sustainability

Adele Horin
May 14, 2009

“I’m jack of it “…sewer repairer Richard Bishop wants to retire but the later eligibility for the age pension will affect his plans. Photo: James Brickwood

RICHARD BISHOP began working at 14 and after decades of hard manual labour he is keen to retire as soon as possible.

“I’m jack of it,” said the 57-year old who repairs sewers for a living. “I’ve just had a knee reconstruction and by the time I’m 60 I don’t think I’m going to be getting any better. I want to enjoy what I’ve got left.”

Mr Bishop’s plans to put his feet up have been derailed by the Federal Government’s plan progressively to raise the pension eligibility age to 67 from 2017.

He admits the plan will hurt him and he is not alone – most Australian workers will not applaud the initiative, according to social researcher Julia Perry.

“Employers don’t want older workers, and a lot of mature-age workers want out, too,” said Ms Perry, who produced the Too Young To Go report on older workers for the NSW Government.

To prefer to work beyond 60 has always been a minority taste. At most, 25 per cent of mature-age workers enjoy their jobs so much they want to keep going beyond the usual retirement age, research consistently shows. “Only a minority of workers have the kind of job that is exciting or fulfilling,” said Sol Encel, emeritus professor at the University of NSW who is an expert on the ageing population. “Work is a chore for most people, especially as they age.”

Yet most experts agree the decision to lift the pension age is a necessity in the absence of higher tax rates to fund burgeoning health and aged care services, as well as pensions and superannuation concessions for a greying population. Australia is following a trend set by the US, Germany, Iceland, Norway and Denmark. In Britain 68 is the age for pension eligibility.

Australia’s plan will affect workers now aged 57 or younger. Those aged 55.5 to 57 will not be eligible for a pension until they are 65.5 and those aged 52.5 or younger not until 67.

Australians appeared to be resigned to their fate, Professor Encel said.

In the past decade, workers have reversed the trend to early retirement. Since 1998, the proportion of men aged 60-64 in the workforce has risen from 43 per cent to 52 per cent, and the proportion aged 65-69 has jumped from 19 per cent to 27 per cent, with most working part-time. For women the proportion of those aged 60-64 in work has almost doubled to 36 per cent.

But most, Professor Encel said, were economic conscripts. “The boomers have come to realise they don’t have the money to retire at 60. They’ve got responsibilities upscale and downscale – ageing parents and dependent children,” he said. “And they know if they have to rely on the pension, they’ll suffer a dramatic drop in lifestyle.”

Ms Perry said it was regrettable to compel low-skilled and low-paid workers, many with health problems, to work longer for the pension if highly skilled workers continued to be able to retire early by accessing superannuation at 55 or getting it tax free at 60.

The Henry review of the tax system recommended the preservation age for super be aligned with the age pension age.

If employees are expected to work longer, employer attitudes will need to change, experts say. “It’s a good idea to encourage people to work longer but you have to encourage employers to employ them longer,” Ms Perry said.

David Murray, 57, a company director, said though he was unlikely to be affected by the change in the eligibility age, he had lost retirement savings in the downturn. “Most people have lost 25 to 30 per cent of their retirement funds, so it’s going to take them another four to eight years before they can start to recoup some of that. Most retirements have been pushed out anyway.”

with Jonathan Dart

Misha Schubert, Daniella Miletic and Peter Martin
May 14, 2009

AUSTRALIANS could be forced to wait until they are 67 to get access to their superannuation savings under a radical proposal to be considered later this year by the Rudd Government.

A day after flagging a rise in the pension age to 67, the Government has confirmed it will look at introducing the same age limit for super access – in effect making 67 a universal minimum retirement age.

Bringing the superannuation age into line with a higher pension age was recommended by Treasury secretary Ken Henry in a review published with the federal budget papers on Tuesday.

Dr Henry’s plan, for a phased lifting of the super age from 60 to 67 from 2024, is part of a broad push to keep Australians at work longer to help the nation cope financially with its ageing population.

A spokesman for Treasurer Wayne Swan said the Government would “thoroughly assess the findings of the Henry review when they are delivered at the end of the year”. But he stressed that the super issue would not be considered before then.

The plan could be even more controversial than the budget decision to lift the pension age.

Jane Chisholm, 53, was unhappy enough at the idea of having to stay in the workforce beyond 65 before she could even think about applying for the age pension.

“They are finally getting us baby boomers back, I guess,” said Ms Chisholm, marketing manager of Gasworks Arts Park in Albert Park.

But she expressed stronger misgivings at the proposal to lift the super access age. While she understood the need to prepare the nation for people living and working longer, she said the super proposal was cruel.

“People like to think they could have control of the money that is there for their retirement,” Ms Chisholm said. “If you want to go travelling and do some of the things you want to do, it’s just putting it closer to the 70 mark, when you can’t count on your health.”

The move to raise the pension age sparked fierce debate, with critics saying it would entrench inequality and force more old people into poverty.

Mr Swan said the decision was needed to keep pensions sustainable. “Currently we have five workers in Australia for every person aged 65 and over and by 2050, that will be 2½,” he said in a post-budget interview.

“Life expectancy has increased by 23 years since the age pension came in,” he said. “Twice as many people are going on it for twice as long.”

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull supported the pension age increase, saying his only concern was that it would not come in soon enough.

National Seniors also backed the move, noting that it would not come in until 2023.

But critics highlighted the contrast between the rich getting access to super at 60 (at least under existing rules), while the poor were being forced to work or stay on the dole until 67.

The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association warned the move would add to poverty among over-65s and force some to toil longer at hard physical labour. “People in their 50s and 60s are often unable to find adequate employment,” said the association’s policy officer, Charmaine Crowe.

But she backed the idea of aligning the pension and superannuation ages, saying it would ensure more equality between richer and poor retirees, keep skilled people in the workforce longer and boost super savings.

Sydney University workplace relations centre analyst Michael Rafferty said increasing the pension age would entrench inequality and force some of the hardest working people in the world to work even longer.

He also pointed to what he said was a disparity between the pension decision and the mild cuts in the budget to tax breaks on superannuation. “The rich have been hit with a feather duster and the poor have been told you are going to work longer and harder,” he said.

Australian Council of Social Service chief Clare Martin said lifting the pension age to 67 might disadvantage “lower-income, mature-age people with limited job prospects, who will have to remain on lower income support payments for longer”.

UNSW Centre for Pensions and Superannuation deputy director John Evans said the pension age rise was a “knee-jerk” decision that could damage the vulnerable.

But Brotherhood of St Laurence chief executive Tony Nicholson said raising the pension age was inevitable to ensure the long-term sustainability of the system.

David Knox, a partner at Mercer Consulting who proposed the 67 pension age in a paper prepared for the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, also welcomed the decision.

But he expressed dismay at the proposal to lift the super preservation age to 67.

“The superannuation access age should generally be about five years younger than the pension age in order to provide flexibility. You cannot assume that everyone will retire at the same age, in fact today most people retire before 65.”

Superannuation access is at present available at 55, with the age set to climb to 60 by 2024. The Henry Review recommends a further staged increased to 67, after which it would remain aligned with the pension age in order to stop Australians spending their super payout quickly and then getting access to the part-pension.


Three-quarters of Australian workers believe their current skills will be out of date within five years, according to a recent survey.

The survey of almost 100,000 people in 34 countries, including more than 13,000 in Australia, shows that even in an economic recession, training and skills development are still important.

The Kelly Global Workforce Index finds that almost one-half of the respondents believe the training currently provided by their employers will not meet their future career needs.

Competitive advantage

Kelly Services managing director James Bowmer said that in an increasingly competitive global economy, investing in training for vital employees can become a key competitive advantage for firms.

‘Training may not seem a priority in the present economic climate, but organisations which devote the resources will be more likely to see higher productivity and profitability in the future,’ Bowmer said.

Changing labour market

The survey highlights the significance that employees across the generational age groups place on training and skills development to sustain them in a rapidly changing labour market.

Among the key findings of the survey:
Baby boomers (aged 48–65) are most worried about the level of training, with 59% saying it is not sufficient to upgrade skills and advance their career.
83% of Gen X (aged 30–47) say that within the next five years, their skills will need to be upgraded to keep pace with changes in the workplace.
73% of Gen Y (aged 18–29) see the provision of training as a joint responsibility between the employer and employee.

On-the-job training is the preferred form of training nominated by employees.

Human resource professionals come under scrutiny, with almost one-half of all respondents saying their HR department has not helped them to achieve their employment goals.

Across generations, women generally are more concerned than men about their skill set and have a higher expectation of their employers’ HR departments in managing their careers.

Among respondents, almost three-quarters (74%) say that training should be a joint responsibility between an employer and employee.

On-the-job training preferred

The preference among those surveyed is for on-the-job training (48%), followed by professional development courses (31%), self-initiated learning (11%) and formal university or college qualifications (10%).

Bowmer said the findings reveal the depth of concern across the population at the capacity of the current skills base to meet new workforce challenges.

‘The current economic environment has made people very aware of their skills and whether they will be sufficient to survive the recession and beyond, into a period of economic recovery,’ Bowmer said.

‘It is only very recently that we faced skills shortages across many industries, and unless skills and training are enhanced, that situation may occur in the future.’

‘Increased competition for jobs combined with technological change makes it vital that employees are assisted to become even more productive, through the best training possible.’

April 29, 2009 – 1:49PM

Babcock & Brown Wind Partners Group (BBW) shareholders have approved the company’s name change, finalising its separation from its troubled parent.

At an extraordinary general meeting on Wednesday, shareholders approved a motion for the company to become known as Infigen Energy.

Infigen is derived from the words infinite and generation, reflecting the infinite availability of fuel sources such as wind and BBW’s core function of generating renewable energy, the company said.

BBW operates 41 wind farms in the Asia Pacific, Europe and North America.

The company will begin trading under the new name on the ASX within days, chairman Graham Kelly told the meeting.

The meeting also saw the approval of new incentive plans for the company’s executives, who became directly employed by BBW on January 1.

“The directors’ goal is to reinforce the objective of creating sustainable value for securityholders by aligning executive remuneration with that objective,” Mr Kelly said.

A motion to approve the participation of managing director Miles George in the performance rights and options plan was also passed.

The approval of the new name and pay incentives structure finalise the separation of BBW from Babcock & Brown, a process begun by the renewable energy provider late last year.

The debt-laden Babcock & Brown was placed into voluntary administration in March.

Mr Kelly told the meeting the company was “well advanced” in terms of transferring its IT systems, while a move to a new premises would be completed by the end of June.

The company signed an in-principle agreement with B&B on Tuesday to acquire all of its Australian and New Zealand wind energy assets.

“BBW commences its new life independent of B&B in a very strong position,” Mr George said.

“We have long-term revenue contracts and our costs are highly predictable, ensuring high and stable EBITDA margins.”

Mr George reaffirmed full year distribution guidance of at least nine cents per security.

He also indicated the company was looking at offloading its remaining European assets.

“We have indicated that our remaining European assets are non-core to the business and we are currently reviewing proposals from advisers to assist us to maximise the realisable value of these assets,” he said.

At 1301 AEST BBW shares were down two cents to $1.25.–brown-wind-becomes-infigen-20090429-amv7.html

April 30, 2009 – 11:09AM

Canadian agribusiness Viterra Inc is looking to raise $CAD450 million ($A515.018 million) in equity through a private placement to help pay for ABB Grain Ltd, should Viterra decide to make a formal takeover offer for the Australian grains marketer.

“Proceeds of the offering will provide a portion of the funding that may be required should Viterra determine that it will proceed with the acquisition of shares of ABB Grain Ltd, via a scheme of arrangement,” Viterra said in a statement.

Viterra and ABB are presently engaged in continuing negotiations and due diligence activities.

“We feel it is important to put ourselves in a position to act quickly should due diligence and negotiations result in a strategic transaction,” Viterra chief executive Mayo Schmidt said.

ABB Grain said on Tuesday this week that it had received a conditional and non-binding proposal from Viterra to acquire all of the shares in ABB via a scheme of arrangement.

ABB said the proposal was within the range of $9.00 to $9.50 per ABB share and comprised a mix of cash, Viterra shares and franked dividends.

The Viterra proposal values ABB at between $1.55 billion and $1.64 billion.

Viterra said it will raise the $CAD450 million in equity via a bought deal subscription receipt offering at $CAD8.00 per subscription receipt.

Each subscription receipt represents the right of the holder to receive, at no extra cost, one Viterra share upon the acquisition closing of ABB Grain.

If the acquisition does not occur, holders of the subscription receipts will receive a refund of the purchase price.

ABB Grain shares were four cents lower at $8.71 at 1051 AEST on Thursday.

April 29, 2009 12:01am

UP TO 40 service and mechanical jobs will be created as a result of MTU Detroit Diesel Australia’s relocation to a new, green facility at Edinburgh Parks.

Premier Mike Rann yesterday opened the new state-of-the-art facility with Transport Minister Patrick Conlon and MTU Detroit Diesel Australia president Doug Seneshen.

MTU Detroit supplies high-powered engines to the defence sector for patrol boats, frigates and armoured vehicles.

The Edinburgh location will help the company grow its business.

MTU is a world leader in low-emission diesel technology and alternative fuel, including commercial fuel cells for power generators. It also services the mining, construction, power, agriculture and transport sectors.

“The move to Edinburgh Parks has offered a major upgrade for all of our Adelaide customers and employees,” Mr Seneshen said. “As a leader in high-performance and high-technology engines in Australia, it is essential we invest in world-class facilities.”

The new Adelaide facility is an indication of the company’s

April 25, 2009 12:01am

CONSTRUCTION has begun at the $118 million Honeymoon uranium mine in SA’s north-east, 37 years after yellowcake was first found at the site.

Canadian-based Uranium One and its Japanese joint venture partner Mitsui & Co are building the mine, which will begin production in the second half of 2010.

The mine is SA’s third and Australia’s fourth uranium mine and the first since the Labor Party scrapped its `no new mines’ policy in 2007.

Uranium One and Mitsui have already invested $39 million in the mine and will spend a further $79 million to bring the mine into production. One hundred and twenty will work on the site during the construction phase until early next year, after which between 50 and 70 people will operate the project.

Four hundred tonnes of uranium oxide will be extracted from the deposit each year, generating $80 million.

Uranium One executive vice president Greg Cochran said the construction of Honeymoon marked a new era of mining development in the state.

“It has been a long time between drinks as some might say in the development of uranium mines in Australia,” he said.

“There is no doubt Honeymoon is unique. For so long it represented the hopes and aspirations of an industry that legitimately wanted to pursue its business, but was artificially withheld and prevented from doing that. Now that has all changed.”

Mr Cochran said Uranium One was also undertaking drilling work at Gould’s Dam, 75 km north-west of Honeymoon, which is earmarked to come on stream as Honeymoon winds up in six years.

“That is our existing plan – we anticipate that Gould’s Dam would be a replacement for Honeymoon.”

Mr Cochran said the design of Honeymoon would allow for plant and equipment to be moved to other mines at a later date. Most of the uranium oxide produced will be sent to Europe, the U.S. or Canada, where it will be converted before being sold to Japanese and European buyers for nuclear energy generation.

Speaking at the ceremony yesterday, Premier Mike Rann said the change in ALP policy would ensure future growth in SA’s mining sector.

“It was critically important for South Australia’s future development, that we changed the policy which was essentially an artificial impediment which would have stopped a whole series of mines from going ahead,” Mr Rann said.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Fresh approaches to national skills training are urgently needed in order to meet the challenges of the economic downturn and to position Australia for a return to growth and prosperity, according to a consortium of peak industry, trade union and youth advocacy bodies.

A report released today by the National Skills Policy Collaboration (NSPC) – comprising the Australian Industry Group, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Group Training Australia, Australian Education Union and Dusseldorp Skills Forum – recommends a new wave of training reform to take advantage of opportunities beyond the current economic crisis.

The report Investing Wisely sets out a framework to elevate skills development and to entrench a culture of learning across the workforce.

Heather Ridout, Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group said the importance of skills cannot be taken for granted.

“Despite rising unemployment, we cannot afford to take our foot off the pedal in addressing the skills gap in Australia. As soon as labour market conditions improve skill shortages will re-emerge with a vengeance, especially given our ageing workforce. It will bring with it all the familiar pressures on our ability to have the skills we need to sustain investment and growth. Indeed, we need to avoid the mistakes of past downturns where training was seriously neglected and businesses need to be positioned to emerge with the skilled workers they need to take advantage of the recovery,” Mrs Ridout said.

Sharan Burrow, President of the ACTU said: “Increased productivity flowing from enhanced skills and training will be vital if we are to emerge from the economic slowdown with a more skilled workforce that is able to compete globally.

“There is always a risk that in the current economic climate, the focus on skills will take a backseat to other more immediate concerns. That would be a big mistake,” Ms Burrow said.

The report stresses that skills development needs to keep pace with the demands of the new economy, and that there must be a focus on quality, not just quantity.

The consortium says improvement is needed in four key areas:

Accurate information about skill needs, and mechanisms that shape public policy and funding decisions;

A prevailing industry culture that values investment in skills development and makes the most of the skills at its disposal;

A focus on people and the skills and opportunities they need to participate in society and the economy; and

Government funding which supports the development and use of the right skills.

“The shortcomings identified are not new and they will not be fixed merely by more funding or more training places,” Jim Barron, Chief Executive Officer, Group Training Australia said. “Action is required to maximise the value of investments in skills, and achieve a more strategic use of public funds”.

AEU President Angelo Gavrielatos said: “The report highlights the need to place a well resourced public TAFE system at the heart of any strategy to increase participation and equity in Australian workplaces and society.”

The report makes five key recommendations:

Work closely with industries and employers. A significant funding investment should be made in encouraging industries and enterprises to pursue high-skill strategies;

Develop a culture of learning across all levels of the workforce. Key personnel should be developed and supported to engage workers across all sectors in learning. Managers should play a critical role in this process;

Make public funding mechanisms more flexible and responsive to demand. This does not necessarily mean responding to the demands of individuals and individual firms; rather, responding to broader industry and social objectives;

Ensure sufficient investment is made in the public training system. A legacy of government funding cuts must be reversed; and

Ensure sufficient investment is made in the development of essential skills. There is a good case for maximising the public and employer contribution, and minimising the individual contribution, to this end.

Media contacts
Australian Industry Group, Tony Melville: (02) 6233 0700
Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mark Phillips: (03) 8676 7266 or 0422 009 011
Group Training Australia, Bob Bowden: (02) 9241 2811 or 0412 753 298
Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos: 0488 012 045

More information
Download a copy of Investing Wisely here.
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By Megan Byrne
The Sydney Morning Herald

Jobs in the sustainable economy are booming and there are plenty of ways to plant yourself in the middle of it.

We walk through it every day and yet many of us barely give it a moment’s thought. It is the air we breathe, the water we drink, the ground we stand on and the weather at our backs. It is our environment and it determines our very livelihood – but not just physically. An increasing number of Australians are forging environment-focused – or “green-collar” – careers for themselves, boosting their financial subsistence and job satisfaction while playing a part in securing our planet’s future.

While some people feel that the green revolution is recent – a response to the effects of droughts, floods and fires, and films such as An Inconvenient Truth – Mark Lister, the group manager of corporate affairs at sustainable business solutions organisation Szencorp, says his company has promoted environmentally sustainable business and economic practices since 1983.

“There are several cost-saving and productivity benefits of changing the way we do things so they reduce the impact on the environment,” he says. “We work on the theory that sustainable practices can’t be adjunct to business. They should be a fundamental part of the business model. Leaders are now recognising that the model we have can’t continue.”

The profile of sustainability has taken off in the past two or three years, Lister says. Australia’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in 2007 boosted green practices and businesses in Australia, and in February,

US President Barack Obama said his $US787billion ($1.08trillion) economic stimulus package was “laying the groundwork for a new, green energy economy that can create countless well-paying jobs”.

The Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions agree that the rapidly growing green economy has the potential to expand employment opportunities but say there is a significant skills shortage. However, the wide range of courses and training programs available means that anyone – regardless of age, profession or experience – can take advantage of the booming green economy.

Completing an environmental degree can provide the necessary skills for a green career. Monash University graduate Genevieve Ackland began a job as a carbon research assistant at Greening Australia just months after completing honours in environmental science. Ackland, whose honours project investigated carbon stocks in South-East Asian tropical forests, says she wouldn’t have got the job without honours.

“Completing my thesis gave me the experience I needed for this job,” she says. “I thought I’d end up in environmental consulting – I didn’t even know there were jobs in this area, or that you could earn a good living working for a not-for-profit organisation.” She says she finds her work – which involves data collection and modelling from various forests and plantations around the country – extremely fulfilling.

“My job substantiates my work and financial requirements but it also meets my own personal conservation goals working for an organisation that has made a difference and has got clients interested in investing in the future has boosted my morale.”

But you don’t need a degree for green-collar careers – there is room for apprentices and trainees. WPC Group brings together employers and people interested in jobs in renewable energy, energy and water efficiency and water management, through its Greenskills apprenticeship and traineeship program. Its chief executive, Nick Wyman, says green has gone mainstream.

“We’ve received a lot of interest from employers and prospective employees and have set up panels of employers in Victoria and NSW who are getting people into jobs within the green economy,” Wyman says. “We have everything from building and construction companies that are retrofitting office buildings to large multinational corporates with in-house sustainability programs.”

Wyman says the demographic applying for the program is quite different from what was originally expected. “When you think of apprentices, you think of 17- to 24-year-olds. But we’ve been overrun with people from all different backgrounds and age groups looking for an opportunity, like people in their 30s looking for a career change,” he says.

Even tradies are making their presence felt in the green economy. The Master Plumbers and Mechanical Services Association of Australia has been running a green plumbers’ program since 2001, teaching them about solar hot-water systems, water-efficient technology and natural wastewater treatment systems.

More than 10,000 plumbers worldwide have now completed the program. One of them, Tim Dickinson, says more people are asking whether plumbers are green.

“There’s real opportunities when you can promote yourself as being environmentally aware,” Dickinson says. “I get a lot of satisfaction from advising my clients on sustainable options that meet their needs.”

It is clear that jobs in the green economy are sustainable for both the environment and the employees – making a difference. And the awareness of it leaves people with a deep satisfaction that boosts morale and work ethic. Perhaps communing with nature is not such a hippie notion after all.


Published: 18 April 2009