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National News Australia

Silent pandemic: CSIRO-ATSE report charts path for curbing antimicrobial resistance

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Silent pandemic: CSIRO-ATSE report charts path for curbing antimicrobial resistance

A report released today outlines the challenges Australia and the world need to overcome to avoid being thrust back into a pre-antimicrobial age where simple infections are deadly and some surgeries are too risky to perform.

Australia is seeing a growing ‘silent pandemic’ of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – when bacteria and other microbes become resistant to the drugs designed to kill them, such as antibiotics, usually from misuse or overuse.

The report, Curbing antimicrobial resistance: A technology-powered, human-driven approach to combating the ‘silent pandemic’, calls for greater national coordination and a focus on streamlining commercialisation processes for new antimicrobial resistance solutions and technologies.

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It was developed by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) and initiated by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

Branwen Morgan, Lead of CSIRO’s Minimising Antimicrobial Resistance Mission, said AMR was recently designated one of the top 10 public health threats facing humanity by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“AMR could render some of the most critical antimicrobial drugs ineffective, undermining modern medicine and making us vulnerable to drug-resistant infections,” Dr Morgan said.

“It is responsible for over 1.27 million deaths globally each year and the number is rising.

“In Australia, modelling suggests AMR could potentially be responsible for over 5000 deaths annually.

“This report calls out the key challenges and opportunities for Australia to improve how we prevent, detect, diagnose and respond to drug-resistant infections and reduce the impacts of AMR,” she said.

The report drew on the expertise of more than 100 multidisciplinary experts across government, academia and industry and looked at a range of potentially impactful technologies such as:

• Integrated surveillance and sensing solutions
• Point-of-care diagnostics
• Vaccination technologies
• Antimicrobial surfaces
• Air sterilisation technologies

Specific examples included surface sprays that change colour when pathogens are present, and toilets that detect and disarm harmful microbes before they reach our waterways.

ATSE CEO Kylie Walker said Australia has the potential to be a global contributor in the development of technologies to combat AMR and should aspire to be a world leader in its management.

“We have a wealth of creative AMR technology solutions emerging in Australia. We must support these innovations through the commercialisation process so they can be delivered in the settings they are needed, in a streamlined, sustainable, and coordinated way,” Ms Walker said.

The report supports work underway by the Minimising Antimicrobial Resistance Mission, developed by CSIRO with the Australian Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and Health and Aged Care.

Dr Morgan said the report highlights the importance of a collaborative, preventative approach to AMR, which is a key tenet of the Mission.

“We aim to work with end-users, academic and industry partners to identify and prioritise solutions that have the greatest impact on preventing and managing further resistance,” Dr Morgan said.

“The report provides thought-provoking and multidisciplinary ways for organisations or groups to tackle the rising challenge of AMR,” she said

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Councils lose half billion dollars a year

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Councils lose half billion dollars a year

 

The United Services Union (USU) has unveiled a startling revelation regarding the NSW Government’s handling of funds accrued through a flawed waste levy system, which has led to an annual loss exceeding half a billion dollars for local councils. Rather than channelling these funds back into assisting councils with their waste management services and infrastructure, as intended, the government’s actions have exacerbated financial strains on local authorities.

This revelation, to be presented before the NSW Standing Committee on State Development’s inquiry into local government financial sustainability, highlights a pressing issue compounded by the detrimental effects of rate capping—a policy that has severely constrained the financial flexibility of the majority of NSW councils. Both the flawed waste levy system and the constraints of rate capping persist as legacies of the previous coalition government.

General Secretary of the USU, Graeme Kelly, underscored the severity of the situation, emphasising that while local councils and communities contribute approximately $750 million annually through the waste levy, only a fraction, $250 million, is reinvested into local waste management initiatives. The staggering sum of $500 million is siphoned into the state’s consolidated revenue, neglecting the intended purpose of aiding councils in managing waste sustainably.

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The shortfall in waste levy revenue exacerbates existing challenges, particularly in regions like northern NSW, where inadequate landfill sites prompt councils to incur additional costs by transporting waste across state borders. This situation not only burdens ratepayers but also results in lost levy revenue for NSW.

Mr. Kelly decried this as a blatant instance of cost shifting by the NSW Government, which places undue strain on councils already grappling with financial constraints imposed by rate pegging, diminishing grants, and escalating service demands.

The USU contends that the mismanagement of the waste levy exacerbates financial pressures on councils, incentivizing some to seek alternatives such as dumping waste in neighbouring states. This practice not only undermines environmental objectives but also erodes the financial stability of local councils.

However, the waste levy issue is symptomatic of a larger financial crisis facing local government in NSW, as highlighted in a report by Professor Brian Dollery. The report underscores the deleterious impact of rate pegging, which over two decades has precipitated heightened debt levels, infrastructure deficiencies, and decreased municipal efficiency compared to states without rate caps.

Mr. Kelly emphasised the urgent need for reform, asserting that unless councils are empowered to set rates reflective of their actual costs, the risk of financial distress looms large, jeopardising employment and essential services for over 50,000 council employees statewide.

The USU calls upon the NSW Government to dismantle rate pegging as part of a comprehensive reform agenda aimed at securing the long-term financial viability of local government. While recognizing the complexity of the challenges ahead, Mr. Kelly stressed that abolishing rate pegging represents a crucial initial step towards establishing a sustainable funding model that acknowledges the indispensable role of local government in community welfare.

 

For more National Australia News, visit here.

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NSW Government to Modernise Planning with $5.6 Million AI Investment

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NSW Government to Modernise Planning with $5.6 Million AI Investment

 

The NSW Government has announced a $5.6 million initiative to integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into local council planning systems to address the ongoing housing crisis and shortage of planners. This move aims to accelerate development assessment times and enhance the efficiency of the planning process.

The “AI in NSW Planning” project has identified key areas within the development application assessment process that contribute to delays and could benefit from AI technologies.

After thorough evaluation, three innovative technologies have been selected for trials through the AI Solutions Panel and Early Adopter Grant Program:

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  • Adaptovate Pty Ltd’s Development Assessment Intelligence System (DAISY)
  • Archistar Platform
  • Propcode CDC

Councils are encouraged to apply for funding to test these technologies, with collaborative joint grant applications eligible for up to $500,000 and single council applications up to $200,000. This funding initiative is designed to foster innovative solutions to streamline the development application process.

Approximately 85 percent of all new home development applications in NSW are assessed by council staff. The introduction of recommended AI tools aims to reduce the average time taken to assess development applications by swiftly identifying administrative and data input errors.

Applications for the Early Adopter Grant Program are open to all councils and will close on 22 May 2024. Successful applicants will be notified by June.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Paul Scully, emphasised the transformative potential of the program: “This grant program is set to modernise the NSW planning system, enhancing its efficiency by equipping our planners with the best tools available. Our objective is to ensure the planning system operates at full capacity, which is essential for the timely delivery of new homes.”

For further details or to apply for a grant, councils are invited to visit the NSW Planning website. This initiative marks a significant step towards bringing NSW planning systems into the 21st century, leveraging technology to meet the growing needs of the community.

 

For more National Australia News, visit here.

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Nearly $1.4M in Grants Awarded to Strengthen Rural Communities Across Australia

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Nearly $1.4M in Grants Awarded to Strengthen Rural Communities Across Australia

 

In a significant boost for rural development, the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) has announced that nearly $1.4 million in grants have been distributed to 129 community groups across remote, rural, and regional Australia. These grants, part of the FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) program, aim to support a variety of local initiatives designed to enhance community cohesion and resilience.

The funding was allocated across three streams: community enhancements like upgrades to local facilities; COVID-19 recovery projects such as the creation of cultural precincts; and disaster preparedness and recovery initiatives, which include programs tailored for trauma-responsive community healing.

This round of SRC funding saw an unprecedented demand with 450 applications submitted, requesting over $4.5 million in support for projects collectively valued at more than $19 million. In response to the high demand, FRRR has streamlined its application process, significantly reducing the time from application to award to just nine weeks.

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Jill Karena, FRRR’s Place Portfolio Lead, highlighted the shifting landscape of funding in rural areas, noting a decrease in traditional government and local business support. “The SRC program’s flexibility and year-round availability are crucial, especially as communities transition from immediate disaster response to long-term recovery,” Karena explained. “This round we observed a notable increase in applications for community events funding and initiatives aimed at boosting local economies through tourism and other activities.”

Despite the generous grant allocations, there remains a significant unmet need within these communities. An additional 85 projects were ready for funding, seeking over $900,000 which could not be met due to limited resources. This underscores the critical role that small grants play in sustaining rural community groups and why FRRR is actively seeking new partners to expand its funding capabilities.

“Groups have expressed the importance of having access to timely and secure funding to support not just immediate needs but also medium and long-term goals,” said Ms. Karena. “These projects foster a strong sense of place and identity, and they require continuous support. We hope to engage more collaborative funders to join us in nurturing the heart of Australia’s rural sectors.”

A complete list of the grant recipients is available on the FRRR’s website. The SRC program is supported by a variety of donors, from private individuals to larger foundations, all listed on the FRRR’s website. Community groups and local not-for-profits are encouraged to review the program guidelines and consider applying for future rounds of funding.

More information about the SRC program can be found here.

 

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