Fair Work Australia has announced a 2.9 per cent increase to the country’s minimum wage, with the national wage rising to $606.40 per week, or $15.96 an our. The increase equates to an additional $17.10 for the country’s lowest paid.

The increase applies to minimum wages for junior employees, employees to whom training arrangements apply and employees with disability, and to piece rates through the operation of the methods applying to the calculation of those wages. 

"In this review we have decided that the relevant statutory considerations favour a moderate increase, which will improve the real value of award wages and assist the living standards of the low paid," Fair Work President Justice Ian Ross said. 

The Federal Government has announced ‘reward’ funding of more than $147 million for States and Territories for their progress in literacy and numeracy targets.

Australia’s economic global competitiveness has slipped for a second consecutive year according to a report released by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA). The report found Australia slipped from 9th place to 15th in world competiveness rankings.

Legislation to establish an independent expert scientific committee to provide advice on impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining proposals on our water resources has passed the House of Representatives.


Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the legislation would allow for more rigorous scientific assessment of coal seam gas and large coal mining proposals, in particular how these proposals will affect underground water resources and our rivers.


"I know that there is significant community concern about the impact of coal seam gas and coal mining developments on our water resources," Mr Burke said.


"That's why the Gillard Government has acted to create The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development.


"We want to make sure that decisions by governments in relation to coal and coal seam gas developments are informed by the most rigorous scientific evidence available, in particular where those developments are likely to have a significant impact on water.


"The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development will play a vital role in ensuring that independent scientific advice is available to all governments when they consider applications for these types of developments.


"In this way, we have established the independent committee and we have funded it.


"It will provide local communities and other stakeholders with accessible and reliable information as well as giving the coal seam gas and mining industries greater guidance on the sustainable management of water resources in areas where they propose developments."


An interim committee was set up in January pending formal establishment of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee. The interim committee has already provided valuable independent advice to the Australian Government and will continue until it hands over to the new committee from 1 July, 2012.


The legislation, which amends the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to set up the committee, will now be introduced into the Senate.


Mr Burke said the committee would provide advice on research priorities that address critical gaps in scientific understanding, and oversee research commissioned by myself in line with those research priorities.


"When requested, the committee will provide further evidence to inform regulatory decisions made by governments," Mr Burke said.


"It will provide advice on options for increasing the quality and accessibility of knowledge available on the impacts to water resources from coal seam gas and large coal mining developments, for example, in the collection of data.


"The committee's work will be supported by a national partnership agreement with relevant state and territory governments that will require them to seek and take account of the committee's advice when considering approvals for coal seam gas and large coal mining developments.


"So far Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia have signed the agreement – negotiations with Victoria and the Northern Territory are continuing."


Mr Burke said the committee would also provide advice on the priority areas for bioregional assessments and oversee their delivery. The interim committee has started work on the first five bioregional assessments in regions facing significant levels of coal seam gas and coal mining developments, such as the Galilee, Gunnedah, Gloucester and Clarence-Moreton basins.


The Australian Government has provided $200 million to establish the new Independent Expert Scientific Committee and assist states that are parties to the national partnership agreement to introduce the necessary reforms to seek the committee's advice when deciding on coal seam gas and coal mining applications.


For more information visit www.environment.gov.au/coal-seam-gas-mining.

The Federal Government has announced it will provide over $170 million in funding to state and territory governments in reward payments for their progress in national teacher quality reforms. The funding forms part of the $550 million Smarter Schools National Partnership for Improving Teacher Quality.

A research study conducted by the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) has found that nearly 3 million Australians lack access to fundamental financial services.

The Federal Government has announced $47 million in reward funding under the National Partnership on Youth Attainment and Transitions.

A report released by the mental health advocacy group Inspire Foundation has found that mental illnesses in young men is costing the Australian economy $3 billon each year.

The International Square Kilometre Array Organisation has announced a dual site solution for the construction of the Square Kilometre Array telescope, with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa sharing the construction of the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten have announced the Federal Government will conduct a review into bullying in the workplace.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has released changes to its Basin Plan to ministers as part of the Authority’s process of developing the finalised plan.

The United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has confirmed Australia’s limits of 11 million square kilometres of continental shelf, providing clarity over areas which Australia has exclusive rights.

Legislation to establish a National Children’s Commissioner within the Australian Human Rights Commission has been introduced into the Australian Parliament.

The Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb has released his Health of Australian Science report, providing an overview of Australia's science system in schools and universities, through to research sectors and industry.

The Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Senator Kate Lundy, has announced the appointment of an independent expert committee to help Innovation Australia deliver the $1 billion Clean Technology Investment programs.

The first National Indigenous Youth Parliament has been opened in Canberra.

The Treasurer Wayne Swan has welcomed the OECD Economic Outlook which predicts that the Australian economy will significantly outperform OECD economies as a whole over this year and next.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has praised the Federal Government’s Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEIO Program, describing it as a successful example of how government policy can work with industry to reduce energy use.

A new inquiry by a Parliamentary Committee will investigate how and why the tender for the Australia Network was botched, weeks after a Commonwealth audit found serious flaws in the process.

The Australian and Malaysian Governments have signed a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) that will see significant reductions in tariffs in bilateral trade.

Norsk Hydro has announced it is considering ceasing its operations at its Kurri Kurri aluminium plant following the curtailing of three pot lines in January this year, citing the effects of the Federal Government's carbon tax. 

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