BUSINESS NEWS: Government policy is set to shake up the state of housing, while energy from lasers also takes centre stage with government grants. But is there a risk that some jobs will be lost?
UNIVERSITIES – Deakin: Australia’s first laser fusion energy company HB11 Energy has been awarded $20 million in funding as part of Deakin University‘s plans to build “the largest recycling and clean energy advanced manufacturing ecosystem in Australia”.
The investment comprises a $6 million grant from Deakin University’s $50 million from the federal government’s Trailblazer Universities Program, plus $14 million in contributions from partners.
The Sydney-based deep tech startup will work with Deakin’s Recycling and Renewable Energy Commercialisation Hub (REACH) to manufacture hydrogen-boron fusion fuels.
Hydrogen-boron reactions could provide large-scale power for base-load grid electricity or hydrogen generation, with minimal waste.
Dr Warren McKenzie, founder and managing director of the start-up said Deakin is a leader in materials science and research commercialisation.
“This is an important step in establishing Australia’s sovereign capability in manufacturing fusion fuels, to deploy the only truly safe, scalable, and extremely low-cost energy of the future.”
Deakin Professor Julie Owens, deputy vice-chancellor of research, said: “Recycling and renewable energy are key to reducing landfills, reliance on fossil fuels, and the devastating costs of global warming. REACH will help build Australia’s sovereign capability in key manufacturing priorities.”
Renewables are essential to the government’s plan towards net zero, with Queensland being the latest state to jump on board with a plan to create jobs in renewables while leaving no worker behind in the transition.
The Queensland government’s energy and jobs plan has been released, aiming to drive greater investment in renewable energy, achieve significant reductions in emissions and meet the 50 per cent renewable target by 2030.
The plan will deliver 64,000 jobs in clean energy infrastructure, transmission and renewable energy projects, manufacturing and operations, and services which support the energy sector. Another 36,000 jobs will be created in renewable hydrogen and battery manufacturing.
Professionals Australia Queensland director Sean Kelly said: “The plan includes an Energy Workers’ Charter and will provide for a legislated Job Security Guarantee to support all workers at publicly owned coal fired power stations and ensure no worker is abandoned as the energy sector transforms.
“Other support will include retraining and transfers to new roles and the establishment of an Energy Industry Council will ensure workers are consulted throughout the transition.”
When it comes to jobs, new research has found that young people are most at risk of having their jobs automated.
With robotics and artificial intelligence causing job cuts and large-scale automation in many industries, some young Australians with socio-demographic disadvantages including informal computer skills and limited ITS access at home may find themselves in dead-end industries forecast to be most affected by automation.
As we spoke about last week, automation is on the rise in the built environment with 3D printers and robotic bricklayers perhaps set to take over construction jobs in the near future.
Future of Work specialist Associate Professor Dr Andreas Cebulla from the Flinders University College of Business, Government and Law said young people are finding it increasingly difficult to find secure employment, with casual work and the gig economy “often the only work available”.
“If some of these first job opportunities are just a few years away from being automated away, we then need to consider whether these young people are entering dead-end jobs and making themselves unemployed without considering the consequences or planning for a more secure future,” he said.
Global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group launched its Climate and Sustainability Hub with the Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, last week.
The goal of the hub is to accelerate decarbonisation across all sectors globally, and drive global and regional expertise across sectors including the energy sector, industrial goods, retail and consumer, financial services, and digital innovation.
On the government side, the Tasmanian government is developing the state’s first 20 year housing strategy, building on its recent record $615 million investment towards social and affordable housing and homelessness initiatives.
The Tasmanian Housing Strategy will be developed in collaboration with key stakeholders and the community, bringing together experts in government, research, community, business and construction to provide advice on all the housing market levers.
It is open for feedback and consultation until 21 October.
Productivity Commission – housing
Also targeting homelessness, the Productivity Commission has reviewed the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA) in the report In need of repair: The National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.
The commission focuses on rental housing, at a time when rental vacancies are at historic lows.
It makes a series of recommendations aimed at improving housing supply, including housing targets and planning reform to promote density and diversity, and levelling the playing field for build-to-rent housing investment.
Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison said the study reaffirmed the need to urgently tackle the national housing supply crisis and underlined how existing planning systems around the country are failing to meet community needs.
“Today’s report reaffirms that we will remain in a housing supply crisis until we improve our planning for new homes of all types,” Mr Morrison said.
The report also focuses on targeting the area of greatest need with homelessness – older women.
This year, the Property Council released Retirement living – a solution for older women at risk of homelessness which recommended improving affordability for older women through broadening access to rental assistance into seniors’ communities.