BCA demands 10-year costing on key reforms

A business leader has warned the Gillard government to “be realistic” about whether it can afford its disability insurance and school funding reforms, suggesting the measures may be scaled back.
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Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott called on the government to reveal 10-year plans outlining the costs of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Gonski education reforms beyond the four-year budget cycle.

The call for a more modest version of the reforms comes as the government tries to clear the way for a school funding deal with state and territory leaders at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra next week.

Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett is expected to convene another phone hook-up with his counterparts to thrash out details of the Gonski reforms which are expected to inject an extra $6.5 billion a year into school funding.

Ms Westacott said the government needed to be realistic about what it could afford.

“We’re calling for the government to sit down with the states and really nut out 10-year implementation plans for Gonski and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, to make sure that we’re really clear about what we’re getting, that it’s meeting the outcomes that people think it should, and we can pay for it,” she said in an interview with Fairfax Media’s Breaking Politics program on Thursday.

Ms Westacott said the budget, to be handed down on May 14, should be clear about the cost beyond the four-year forward estimates.

“Things like Gonski, things like NDIS, if we’re going to pay for those as a country, there’s no point having small amounts of spending in the forward estimates with big amounts of spending beyond the forward estimates that aren’t clear to the states [and] aren’t clear to the community. We have to be confident we can pay for these things in the long term.”

Ms Westacott said while the intent of the reforms was “extremely good”, the government needed to phase in the changes in an affordable way.

“The question I would ask is what do people think we’re getting in these schemes? We talk about them constantly but I think if you said to the average person in the street, what do you think a National Disability Insurance Scheme is actually going to deliver on the ground, what will change tomorrow, I’m not sure that there’d be uniform agreement,” she said.

“I think we’ve got to sort of stop and say, what is it we’re trying to achieve in these schemes and can we do that in a way that does not impose a cost we can’t afford?

“Let’s take education. There are lots of things we can do around the Gonski package and around educational reform that are going to lift standards but don’t necessarily cost the same amount of money.

“I think it’s time . . . for the Commonwealth and the states to say what are we trying to do, can we afford it, can we do some parts of this reform without imposing more burdens on the taxpayer and are we really clear what the cost is going to be over the long term, and have we made the right provision so we can afford it?”

Ms Westacott called on the government to produce a credible medium-term plan to return to surplus, while taking care not to harm economic growth.

She said Australia did not have a “debt crisis” but did have a budget management problem.

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Frankenstein remains in the lab

I, Frankenstein stuck in the lab
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The release date for I, Frankenstein, the Australian-made, Hollywood-backed horror movie, has been delayed for a second time. Directed by Pirates of the Caribbean writer Stuart Beattie, the film is now slated for release on January 24, almost a year after its original release date. Starring Aaron Eckhart (pictured) and Bill Nighy and shot at Docklands Studios Melbourne, I, Frankenstein was first moved to September when US studio Lionsgate decided to convert it to 3D. It says the new date is not a sign of problems with Beattie’s directing. ”The film’s franchise potential, given its large-scale premise … are perfectly aligned with the 3D experience and the studio wants to put forth the best version of the film possible to audiences,” Lionsgate says.

Kon-Tiki Anglo-speaky

So why are Australian cinemas screening an English-language version of Kon-Tiki from Thursday, given it was up for the best foreign language Oscar this year? During previews for critics, there has been some confusion about the Norwegian drama on Thor Heyerdahl’s epic rafting journey from South America to Polynesia in 1947. If it was dubbed, it was dubbed very well. But producer Jeremy Thomas says Norwegian directors Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg shot two versions simultaneously for different parts of the world. The Norwegian actors, who all spoke both languages, would perform a scene in Norwegian first then do it again in English.

Duck to hit screen

While Simon Stone’s unannounced departure from Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre has been attracting attention, the former director-in-residence is forging ahead with plans to adapt Henrik Ibsen’s play The Wild Duck into a film. He won a Helpmann Award for his Belvoir production before an acclaimed season in Norway. Stone is working with producers Jan Chapman and Nicole O’Donohue, who collaborated on Griff The Invisible on what would be his film writing and directing debut, while continuing to direct for the theatre.

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Back from the brink

Survivor: Tom Cruise plays an evacuee from an invasion-ravaged Earth in Oblivion.Two years ago, filmmaker Joseph Kosinski was trying to drum up attention for Oblivion, his idea for a movie about the last man on Earth. He created a graphic novel of the first chapter and took copies to the pop culture convention Comic-Con in San Diego to create interest.
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”Someone picked up a copy and somehow it got to Tom Cruise and when I got back to Los Angeles, I got a call saying Tom wanted to talk about it,” the youthful-looking 38-year-old writer/director/producer recalls, still marvelling at the synchronicity that got his science-fiction blockbuster off the ground.

We are sitting in Hangar 8 at Santa Monica Airport, where some of the more elaborate space machines used in the film are being stored, including the impressive Bubbleship, a futuristic hybrid of a Bell 47 helicopter and a jet fighter that took five months to make and weighs more than 2000 kilograms. It’s flown by Cruise in the film and is one of the many ambitious props and sets that make the film a visual feast.

Ironically, Kosinski says his first meeting with Cruise was at the actor’s own airport hangar across town, where they bonded over toys. ”I’m such an aviation buff and he has a P51 Mustang, a whole suite of other planes and 30 motorcycles so we ended up talking about planes and cars and bikes and all this great stuff,” Kosinski says excitedly. ”Then we got down to the story and I spent an hour pitching him the movie and he was instantly hooked by the character and said, ‘Let’s do it!”’

The film is set in 2077, and Jack Harper (Cruise) is a drone security repairman working with a by-the-book navigator (Andrea Riseborough) stationed above Earth’s evacuated surface in a floating home called Skytower. He’s part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying alien threat decimated the planet. But when he rescues a beautiful stranger (Olga Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft and meets a band of survivors led by Beech (Morgan Freeman), he’s forced to question everything he thought he knew.

Kosinski, who made his feature film directorial debut with the 2010 sequel TRON: Legacy, says it’s no coincidence both his films are science fiction. ”I was a child of the late ’70s and ’80s so I was brought up in that world of Star Wars, Blade Runner, 2001 and Back to the Future,” he says. ”Science fiction for me is the genre where you can really challenge people’s minds and their hearts and you can play with emotions. I love design, I love building worlds and I went to school for product design and architecture, so creating worlds is the fun part of making these kind of movies for me.”

Raised in Iowa as the son of a doctor, Kosinski earned an architecture degree from Columbia University in New York before moving to Los Angeles in 2005. ”I was having trouble breaking into the commercial music video business, where I wanted to get started,” he says. ”I’d been trying for months to get a foot in the door and couldn’t even get a fabric softener commercial, so I wrote a lot, including this story for Oblivion, in order to keep myself from going crazy.”

After TRON: Legacy grossed $400 million worldwide, Kosinski was given the green light to make the ambitious action-adventure Oblivion film, which shot for more than 80 days in Louisiana, New York and Iceland. ”When I was writing this, I had no idea it would blossom into something so big,” he says. ”Getting to a mountain peak in Iceland via helicopter, dropping off cranes and putting the biggest movie star in the world on the tip of that mountain and shooting a scene up there is something I’ll never forget.”

Kosinski admits he was also eager to learn from his leading man. ”I was shocked how down-to-earth he was, but it was also an amazing experience to hear him talk about working with Stanley Kubrick, Michael Mann and Ridley Scott,” he says.

”I felt like I was learning second-hand from all my heroes thanks to Tom.”Oblivion

Genre Science fiction

Critical buzz Will this big-budget sci-fi film turn things around for Tom Cruise at the box office after a tepid response to his past two efforts, Jack Reacher and Rock of Ages? The early buzz is that it will.

Stars Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko

Director Joseph Kosinski

Rated M

Release Now screening

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Australia falling further behind in IT ranking

Australia continues to fall in global rankings on how ready business and governments are to benefit from using technology, which industry blames on uncertainty around the national broadband network and business being too risk-averse and conservative with IT investment.
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In the 2013 Global Information Technology survey produced by the World Economic Forum and released on Thursday, Australia ranked 18th of 144 nations, down one spot from the previous year and from ninth place in 2004.

The nation’s ranking for individual technology use rose one spot to 15th, but dropped three places to 25th for business use and down 11 positions to 19th for government.

“This reinforces both the need for high-speed ubiquitous broadband but importantly, the critical need to invest in lifting the skills needed to gain the greatest benefit from this infrastructure,” Australian Industry (Ai) Group chief executive Innes Willox said of Australia’s ranking.

Mr Willox said businesses required confidence and knowledge to invest, and governments needed policies in areas such as skills, innovation, cutting red tape, cybersecurity and buying technology goods.

“Lifting productivity is front and centre of the economic agenda and ICT [information and communications technology] adoption is an important part of this challenge,” he said.

George Kazangi, managing director of BlueCentral, which hosts mission critical business and web applications, said the reason business and governments were lagging behind the rest of the world was because they took a risk-averse and conservative approach to technology projects.

“I think it’s holding us back from the rest of the world because that conservative view doesn’t drive research and development and it doesn’t drive technology investment, which is really holding us back from becoming an IT powerhouse,” Mr Kazangi said.

Australian business and governments would go up the IT rankings when they became “more confident and more comfortable” with investing more money in technology projects, he added.

One of the major reasons businesses were putting off large infrastructure projects and investment in technology, he said, had to do with uncertainty surrounding the NBN rollout.

“So their concerns and the risk to their business are spending on infrastructure with such a long return, particularly because of the length of where the NBN stands now and how long it’s going to take to deploy. But also uncertainty as to what that will look like at the end of the deployment.”

Kevin Noonan, research director at Ovum, agreed with businesses being conservative and risk-averse. “The problem has been risk aversion when focussing on IT and then ignoring the enormous opportunity risks in not taking up business change,” Mr Noonan said.

“So what we [have been] focussing on is saving a couple of dollars on technology and missing out on the hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be saved through business change.

“I think though that we are starting to see some change happening there though.”

with AAP

 This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb

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‘I’m not going quietly’: TAFE chief

The chief executive of Holmesglen TAFE has accused the state government of doing more damage to the training sector than any of its predecessors during his 31 years in the job.
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Bruce Mackenzie has announced his retirement and will leave the job when Holmesglen finds a replacement, which is expected to happen later this year.

He lashed out at the government for its $300 million cuts to the sector last year. “I’m not going to go quietly,” he said. “This government has done far more financial damage to TAFE than any other government I’ve worked with. No question about that.”

Mr Mackenzie criticised the “policy vacuum creating enormous uncertainty in the TAFE sector” but said he was confident Holmesglen would continue to be an “enterprising” institute.

Holmesglen is one of Australia’s biggest providers of vocational training.

Mr Mackenzie also called for one jurisdiction to oversee the TAFE sector because a “disconnect” between the state and federal governments was failing Australia.

He said international students who wanted to study at Australian TAFE institutes found it too difficult to obtain visas, holding back the training sector.

A spokesman for Higher Education and Skills Minister, Peter Hall, said Mr Mackenzie had been an outstanding contributor to the training system and had “never been afraid to push the boundaries”.

“The government thanks him for his contribution over three decades and wishes him well,” he said.

“The government looks forward to working with the board of Holmesglen and their new leadership team in driving the institution forward to even greater heights.”

Mr Mackenzie’s impending retirement comes after the government sacked at least half of Victoria’s 14 TAFE chairmen late last month.

Fairfax Media can reveal that Brimbank Council administrator Peter Lewinsky will take over from sacked chairman Jonathan Forster, who is executive chairman of the Kane construction company.

Mr Hall’s spokesman said Mr Lewinsky had been elected by Holmesglen’s board as interim chairman.

Opposition spokesman for higher education and skills, Steve Herbert, said Mr Mackenzie’s resignation was a great loss to training in Victoria.

“Bruce was undoubtedly one of, if not the most, highly respected TAFE chief executives in the country,” he said. “He’s been one of the strongest advocates for the TAFE system in this country.”

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