5 July 2011 – Highlights of the week: The federal government promises the carbon package by the weekend; the Green Building Council’s new paper on the carbon price says, yes, we support it but here’s a long list of where it will hurt and how, and why the industry needs complementary measures to ease the transition; Baillieu Government in Victoria: will it or won’t it scrap SustainabilityVictoria’s; small housing lots in the burbs bring out the kids to play; lighting next for mandatory disclosure, and organic farming is third best performer.

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No pain no gain
The daily newspapers on Friday brought the now expected news: a $10 million to fund a campaign against a carbon price, through advertising, twitter, radio and all the “social media” and blogs that masquerade as a voice of the people.

The organisers must have heard the federal government was about to release its carbon price package on the weekend.

One commentator pointed out that we don’t yet know what that tax will be, so this strategy is more about politics than business. As the Coalition’s Joe Hockey on the ABC’s Q and A program last Monday dryly noted, a potential change of government is a single, fragile, by-election away.

Why do some of us have sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs?

Because this media campaign is part of the dysfunctional pattern of weak governance, that lets the “anti” everything people think they can whack out a few ads and the resulting focus groups will make the government change its mind

The taxi driver index
A certain leading figure in the green building movement told The Fifth Estate this week he’s weary of getting into a taxi and telling the driver what he does for a living, for fear of being subjected to a tirade on that “bloody great big tax” that the Labor government wants to impose. Our source now claims he’s an accountant.

So in this fear-driven weak-kneed political environment that we have, let’s ask: what will be the property industry’s voice on the carbon price issue?

This industry that everyone knows is the fastest cheapest source of emissions reductions, that bravely led the charge, voluntarily, to reduce its environmental impact and turn this into a competitive advantage?

Now that those tough nuts, the capital markets people – and the valuers – are starting to “get it” what say we all to the carbon price?

From the Green Building Council last week came a detailed document that has it a bit both ways: support for a price on carbon, it says, but at the same time, listing a huge range of price impacts on the industry and asking for a range of “complementary measures” to smooth the transition.

The complementary measures urge major policy action towards research and investment in a low carbon future. They make sense.

The detailed list of price impacts on every industry sector the GBCA can think of – and a call to members to think of more – is more of a worry.

Pain is the point. (It’s meant to hurt like hell when the you can’t breathe the air because it’s too hot.)

One industry source who preferred to remain unnamed, said the elephant in the room is that no-one should be compensated, otherwise, quite frankly the carbon price won’t work to reduce emissions.  It will be just another tedious accounting entry.

Grocon’s David Waldren said this week that that the polarisation of views is a concern.

Just about everyone agrees carbon abatement is a serious issue and provided there is a transitional framework everyone agrees we have to do something about it. But the each way bet so many people are taking is a concern, Waldren says.

Sure you need to protect the less wealthy in society and sure, there’s an adjustment period but the opportunities for the Australian economy are huge.

In fact, they’re a “double positive”.

This makes him “very disappointed with the drivel” that dominates the conversation, the, “he said, she said” petty politics being played out, Waldren says.

So what’s the inside view from inside the property industry? Are most people worried sick?

Waldren (diplomatically) says the views pretty well reflect those in the community.

“Go into any discussion on carbon and you have half on one side and half on the other, and yet both are effectively saying there is global warming and you need carbon price.”

As always it comes down to how the work will be done. Not if it’s needed.

Even the abolition of slavery was vehemently opposed.
It’s good to remember, as wise historians are pointing out these days, that every major change in history – from the abolition of slavery to the introduction of the GST has come with dire warnings of catastrophes that don’t eventuate.

New Zealand introduced a carbon price in 2002 and Australia introduced a GST. The sky didn’t fall in.

And finally in comments picked up by Climate Spectator last week:

“As for sovereign risk, James Mackenzie, the chairman of the $1.5 billion Gloucester Coal, put it in some perspective on Thursday. “I was in London last week on a roadshow for Gloucester Coal, so I would have seen 20 institutional investors. There was not one grizzle about the carbon tax. Not one mention of it,” he said in comments reported in The Australian. “We are talking about $1-a-tonne in the coal industry.  We are all going to be operating in a carbon-constrained environment, therefore I applaud anyone who is dealing with the policy that needs to be put in place to operate in that environment.”

Battle of the newbloods: Vic Versus NSW
Can you detect the frisson of competitive spirit between the new Coalition governments Victoria and NSW?

In Victoria the coalition government seemed to slumber for the first six months in power, especially on planning issues. Now that the O’Farrell government has racked up its first 100 days with a string of actions and newspaper verdicts, (Former NSW premier Bob Carr And will deliver his verdict next Tuesday 12 July at The Shelbourne Hotel – see our What’s On pages) the Vic planning department at least, has roared into life.

There’s been an almost daily list of major residential project approvals, the announcement of a new Urban Renewal Authority and now it’s pondering the future of, Sustainability Victoria by the minister environment and climate change Ryan Smith MP Minster for

Social sustainability
During the launch of the Eco-living range of display homes by Landcom in Sydney’s north-west a week or so ago, the agency’s general manager corporate marketing Rob Sullivan said he had noticed an interesting trend with these new suburban houses with their much smaller blocks of land than the traditional quarter acre blocks of times gone past. Because there is so little room in the backyard, the kids and the neighbours tend to congregate in the pocket parks, he says, noticing the mums in the morning sharing a coffee and a natter while they keep their eye on the kids; the dads after work having a beer and a yarn to the mates, while the kids kick a footy around.

It’s a contrast to the big back yards where the kids and families have plenty of room to play so don’t have to venture to the street to play. It’s not what you expect from these housing estate so demonised in the search for more sustainable models of housing development.

But then for an inner city resident who barely needs to drive at all the other surprise is how many times the road toll gadget goes off on the drive there and back. You lose count.

Lighting and mandatory disclosure
Napier & Blakeley sent out a note recently to warn property owners that the reprieve on the commercial disclosure program transitional will end on 31 October 2011. From 1 November  full mandatory disclosure will be required under the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act 2010, or BEED.

Here’s the note:

The BEEC is comprised of three parts:

  • NABERS Energy base building rating
  • Tenancy lighting energy efficiency assessment
  • General energy efficiency guidance for building owners and tenants

The BEEC may be valid for up to 12 months, however will only be valid to the date of the expiry of either Parts 1 or 2 whichever occurs first, as Parts 1 and 2 individually may be valid for up to 12 months but may be completed at different times.

At the time of disclosure, the BEEC will need to be valid, current and registered on the publicly accessible registry on the CBD program’s website.

What’s the difference?

The required BEEC now incorporates a tenancy lighting assessment. A CBD tenancy lighting assessment of a building is based on a methodical survey of the general lighting system installed in the tenant office spaces of a building (the system that is reasonably expected to be left in a tenant space when the tenant leaves and the tenancy fitout removed).

The NABERS base building rating requirements remains the same as the current transitional provisions, and the general energy efficiency guidance will be provided as part of the BEEC.

Accredited tenancy lighting assessments For a lighting assessment to be valid under the BEED Act, it must be performed in accordance with the new CBD Tenancy Lighting Assessment for Offices Rules, by a CBD accredited assessor.

The tenancy lighting assessments may be completed for all of the building, in which the total office space NLA is assessed, or for a selection of tenancies only within the building. Typically, an all building assessment would be undertaken if the building is being prepared for sale.

Assessments of tenancies typically would be undertaken if these areas are to be advertised for lease or sub-lease.

The lighting assessment measures only the energy used by the lighting on an area basis. It does not assess or measure lighting output, quality or suitability of the lighting for use in offices.

Penalties for failure Failure to disclose may result in civil penalties of up to $110,000 for the first day and $11,000 for each subsequent day may be imposed by a Court for each breach of a disclosure obligation. Alternatively, the Secretary of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency can issue an infringement notice of up to $11,000 for the first day and $1,100 for each subsequent day of non-compliance.??Further penalties may apply for various breaches of the CBD.

Here’s the website : www.cbd.gov.au

Great news  from research firm IBISWorld last week picked organic farming as third best performer in terms of growth by sector across the economy

“Demand for organic products in Australia has risen steadily over the last five years as consumers increasingly factor in the health benefits and environmental impact of their food choices,” IBIS says.

“Strong growth has been supported by the mainstream acceptance of organic food, with major retailers – such as Coles and Woolworths – extending and promoting their own range of organic produce and products, making them more price competitive and easier for consumers to access. ”

Baby foods in particular were strong performers for the e Organic Farming industry.

Some of this is due to the organic labelling system that was rolled out in 2009. The industry is expected to expand by 13 per cent,  to reach $504 million in 2011-12.

Organic produce is still just 1 per cent of farm gate sales, it is growing at a rapid rate off the back of increasing demand, but let’s hope this is the writing on the wall.

IBISWorld’s Top 10 Growth Industries 2011-12
IndustryGrowth 2011-12Revenue 2011-12 ($ billion)
Oil & Gas Production18.3%41.2
Sugar Manufacturing16.3%2.7
Organic Farming13.0%0.5
Mining12.9%207.7
Automotive Fuel Retailing10.9%37.0
Multi-Unit Apartment & Townhouse Construction10.6%11.0
Financial Asset Investors9.8%17.0
Renewable Energy9.7%1.4
Online Shopping9.0%5.5
Domestic Airlines9.0%13.4
IBISWorld’s Top 5 Worst-Performing Industries 2011-12
IndustryGrowth 2011-12Revenue 2011-12 ($ billion)
Gaming & Vending Machines Manufacturing-12.6%0.4
Wired Telecommunications Carriers-7.6%10.2
Institutional Building Construction-7.3%10.2
Image Processing & Printing Services-4.9%0.5
Book & Telephone Directory Publishing-2.4%4.2