Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Satre

On good news, war news and the importance of holidays

Let’s start with the good news.

In doing our preparation for our precincts salon and ebook we’ve uncovered a truckload of exciting activity that we had no idea was going on.

Sydney and Perth are hotbeds of massive new precinct development. And Queensland too, it turns out.

Lend Lease is a huge prime mover in this space. There’s not just Barangaroo, but Darling Park and major projects in Perth and Melbourne’s Docklands. The other big players are those who work in the infrastructure space and consultants, designers and thinkers who bring together the visions to re-invent the spaces on the ground where we all live and work.

Among the most exciting projects will be at Bondi Junction where Waverley mayor Sally Betts and her colleagues and business partners are cooking up some fabulous plans to reinvigorate the precinct, clear some of the entrenched traffic and congestion issues and reinvent it as a vibrant community centre that’s sustainable and economically successful. With its demographic profile that contains some of Sydney’s wealthiest and most influential people, proximity to great beaches and a major transport hub, it’s clear that this is a place to watch blossom.

What’s also fantastic and encouraging is that Betts has made it very clear that Waverley will undertake its transformation sustainably and by reducing its emissions by 30 per cent. Not a measly five per cent committed by the feds.

On a recent Friday morning, the council hosted a presentation by US “place-maker” (not developer) Michael Dieden, who showed that if you look at a precinct instead of individual buildings you can achieve social, economic and sustainability outcomes that far exceed expectations. The session, facilitated by Ed Blakely of the Future Cities Collaborative with the United States Studies Centre, who’s working on several local precincts in Sydney, has stuck a new rich vein of opportunity and potential.

Watch for our report coming soon.

Speaking of reinvigoration, Geelong is another area increasingly tipped for major renewal after the loss of major manufacturers. The eyes and ears of learning are on Newcastle and how it has turned around its depressed post industrial image and is now seen as cool. And, as we know from the property experts, cool means a good place to buy.

Property analyst Terry Ryder, of Hotspotting, recently tipped Newcastle, Wollongong and even Dubbo as good places to jump into the real estate market if you’ve missed out on the big smoke.

It’s exactly what sustainability and place making people say: good environments, good community and economic outcomes all contribute to each other in one big wonderful feedback loop.


On the jobs front, there’s a very interesting crop of jobs on offer right now that might well be related to these ambitions to recreate place. Among the offerings are some plum jobs with City of Greater Geelong and Maroondah City Council. Check out Jobs News, always the top rating category on our site.

NABERS and data centre expansion

PC Thomas of Team Catalyst also had some good news this week.

He said a recent two-day conference at Darling Harbour for NABERS assessors was full of positive reports on the achievements of NABERS and the Commercial Building Disclosure program.

PC said it was the first time that the federal and state governments had come together to share progress on the programs and “provide a united front”.

The message was loud and clear.

“People’s investment in NABERS was not at risk. Everything is going according to plan.”

We’re chasing details now.

PC also said his company was now moving into the data centre space where pressure is building for better energy outcomes.

That’s a good move if you look at the Department of Finance website on the topic of data centres.

“This fact sheet sets out the energy efficiency targets and reporting requirements that Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) agencies are required to meet under the Australian Government Data Centre Strategy 2010-2025 (the Strategy),” the document says.

“The policy seeks to reduce agencies’ expenditure on data centres and information storage. This supports the strategy’s goal of avoiding $1 billion in future data centre costs.

“By meeting the Policy’s targets, agencies will also reduce data centre greenhouse emissions output and assist in achieving the Government’s energy efficiency targets as required by the Australian Government ICT Sustainability Plan 2010-2015.”

And the best news?

“The Policy is mandatory for all FMA Act agencies.”

Note the saving potential: a massive $1 billion.

Greener Government Building programs – by another name… and another form

These kinds of savings remind us of the potential massive savings possible from the Greener Government Buildings program that Victoria recently ditched. The Vics said the program could still go ahead but with its hands tied behind its back, that is, with departments borrowing their own funds for retrofits, which is extremely difficult and unlikely.

Undeterred, we hear, some bright sparks are now trying to cobble together alternatives, with unique and rather complex deals that can still keep providing the programs, based partly on leasing programs. We’ll keep you posted.


Okay, to the budget then.

It’s devastating. Cuts to every program in climate and renewable energy, environmental programs, health, welfare. Even on Wednesday, the day after the budget was brought down, the government announced it would axe the Energy Efficiency Opportunity program, like as an afterthought, something they had neglected or couldn’t cut in the budget. Because it didn’t cost anything! The EEO was imperative for big energy users to monitor and reduce their energy consumption and therefore costs.


One of the most experienced and highly regarded observers around in the energy industry on Wednesday was mystified.

“I’ve got nothing to say at the moment. If I understood, I’d tell you.

“There’s a sort of vindictiveness, trying to get rid of something on a class or philosophical basis that goes above and beyond the green programs.”

He suspected it was tied up with a Tea Party-linked world view that a co-ordinated global policy on climate was some kind of socialist conspiracy; that Australia, and this government, needed to be a bulwark for capitalism.

“It’s a philosophical, deeply bitter, anti-green and anti-environment stance and they’re going out of their way,” he said.

“And even all the expenditure on infrastructure on roads; what’s that about? What sort of vision for the country do they have?

“If I could understand it I would tell you. It’s some kid of fundamentalist view”.

The mood among our contact’s peers, was “pretty distressed; very distressed and maybe fairly negative of what they should do next”.

Business hasn’t had a chance to quite respond yet, he said.

Was it likely keep on its trajectory of improving sustainability, which is getting stronger and more positive?

Probably, yes, said the contact. “I think business will do it for reasons of cost savings and lot of companies with see they have to push on with their corporate social responsibility.”

In time there will be a swing back.

“It’s a matter of when, not if.”

Internationally, Australia was seen as the most recidivist country on climate of all.

Down to the bottom we go, Mr Abbott.

Another source was equally perplexed, with no more light to shed on the government’s actions.

It’s as if there was a reversal of all understood logic and knowledge, he said.

“If Treasurer Joe Hockey looks at windfarms near Canberra and thinks they’re horrible then he must look at a coal mine and think it’s beautiful”, he said.

So what do we make of it?

It’s as if there is whole cohort of people who’ve swallowed the Kool-Aid.

It’s no good looking for logic in the federal government’s actions.

There’s been an unending stream of reports with logical, beautifully reasoned arguments about the value of investing in sustainability, clean energy, energy efficiency, fighting climate change and our people.

But they’re not listening.

Something has gone fundamentally wrong.

Last week we ran a picture of the Nazis rolling into Paris. It’s hard to beat that image, sadly.

At the same time a Melbourne radio station fulminated about a trade union that during the week had painted Prime Minister Tony Abbott as Hitler, complete with “mo”. Mmm, must be catchy.

Clive Palmer and the premiers

But Clive Palmer isn’t intimidated (if only he’d switch sides and go into solar energy…Clive?)

According to media reports on Wednesday Palmer said it would not be clear sailing for the government in getting the massive cuts of the budget through the Senate.

Labor and Clive Palmer both said they would oppose the introduction of a GP co-payment, the ABC website said and Palmer said he  would “definitely” oppose the government’s proposed introduction of a $7 fee to see a doctor.

“You imagine being a pensioner and earning $300 a week and you’re 87 and you’ve got to go to the doctor four or five times a week,” he said. “That takes up one-third of your income because of the co-payment.

“I care about Australians and I’m not going to back down.”

The premiers are also furious with the cuts to their health and education budgets and are threatening to give the feds a very hard time.


Think of Simone and Jean-Paul

There’s a wonderful scene in one of memoirs by Simone de Beauvoir of her time with JeanPaul Sartre in Paris during the Occupation. They have very little food or money. Yet they are unquestioning of their need to have their yearly holiday. Their only form of transport is their bicycles, which have no tyres because all the rubber has gone to the war effort. So they ride around France for a few weeks, sleeping in barns, eating what scraps they can find. One day, Simone, faint from hunger, falls off her bike into a ditch and looses two front teeth.

It’s years after the war before someone asks her if she is ever going to get those teeth fixed.

There’s a lesson in that: keep having fun, stuff the war, and know that this too will pass. Probably sooner than we think.

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