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May 30-June 5, 2019 Dubbo Photo News

CSU bosses respond to regulator’s conditions

SYDNEY’S VIVID LIGHT ON RFDS The spotlight is being shone on the Royal Flying Doctor Service South Eastern Section as the official charity partner of VIVID Sydney. From last week, funds and awareness are being raised at the popular major event which last year attracted 2.25 million visitors. Statistics show 33,000 of those visitors spend time in regional NSW, injecting $13 million in tourism dollars into the local economy. “We are really pleased that the Royal Flying Doctor Service will be showcased as part of Vivid – it is recognition that regional NSW matters and that our country communities are valued and supported,” RFDS South Eastern Section CEO Greg Sam said. Vivid Sydney is on now and runs until Saturday, June 15.

By LYDIA PEDRANA

EMERGENCY SERVICES LEVY

Council gets bill shock from levy By YVETTE AUBUSSON-FOLEY THE NSW Government’s surprise 20 per cent increase to the Emergency Services Levy earlier this month arrived without warning, and Dubbo Mayor Ben Shields believes the state government may have delayed announcing the increase until after the state election. As for all NSW councils, Dubbo Regional Council got the news by opening a Revenue NSW bill for $198,137. Dubbo currently pays $1,219,427 annually with more increases predicted next year. Council has until September to pay and can do quarterly instalments, but the bill shock heralds possible cuts to other services locally and, most immediately, clashes with the draft 2019/2020 budget already on public display. “What’s frustrating is (Revenue NSW) has announced this when most councils in NSW have got their budgets on public exhibition, so a couple of months earlier it could have been considered as part of the budget planning process,” Dubbo Regional mayor Cr Ben Shields said.

“It does leave me to question how long did they know about this. If they were playing fair, they would have let us know a while ago. At the very least we could put it in our budget. I think it’s got more to do with the election and putting things off until after that. “It’s not as though Council can’t afford this extra $200,000. What it does do is the slow creep of everything else that comes up, and all the other cost shifts to councils that happen all the time. If it’s not this going up, it’s something else,” he said. “Now we’re going to have to rejig [the budget] and look at some areas where we can cut back in council. Councils then inevitably get forced into a position where they pass on costs to ratepayers, by way of rate rises, and councils are the bad guys.” Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders stands by the NSW Government’s reason for the levy rise to provide better workers’ compensation coverage for volunteer and career firefighters who are diagnosed with one of 12 specific work-related cancers. “I’m mindful of the fact that

there are differing opinions on how the increases should be funded, but the priority of the NSW Government is to ensure that the firefighters suffering from cancer are looked after,” Mr Saunders said. “The extra support will be funded as part of a cost-sharing arrangement with insurers, councils and the government, and is consistent with how the Emergency Services Levy has been funded historically,” he said. The ESL is funded as part of a cost-sharing arrangement with insurers (73.7 per cent), Government (14.6 per cent) and Councils (11.7 per cent). Mr Saunders did not respond to a Dubbo Photo News question about how the levy rise would impact drought-effected home and business insurers who may stop insuring properties or buy contents insurance when premiums rise as a result. Insurance influencer and author Professor Allan Manning has responded to news of the levy rise on his prominent blog. “The whole situation has become intolerable. I fear it will take a Black Saturday-type event in

NSW where people perish while remaining to fight to protect the home or business they cannot afford to insure before common sense prevails. “The State Government benefits with an Emergency Service Levy because GST and the State Government Stamp duty is imposed on the premium, plus the Emergency Service Levy with the Stamp Duty also being a double tax on the GST,” Mr Manning said. “Shame on all those involved in this disgraceful tax policy! It is nothing but a grab for cash in a series of hidden taxes, but at what cost to the home and business owners, to our communities and to the NSW and Australian economy. Mr Saunders said: “NSW isn’t the first state to do this, as similar provisions have been implemented in most other states, and while the councils will cop some of the brunt of the increase, the NSW government will continue to support local councils as we always have.” Mayors are due to meet with NSW Ministers today (Thursday, May 30) in Sydney to discuss their concerns.

CHARLES STURT UNIVERSITY’S Vice-Chancellor has moved to reassure the community that it is business as usual after the industry regulator moved in on the university earlier this month. The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) renewed CSU’s registration for just four years, instead of the usual seven, and imposed five strict conditions which that institution must meet if it wants to survive. Concerns cited by the regulator include issues with CSU’s academic standards, student performance and academic misconduct. This comes after CSU faced public backlash over a $6.5 million rebrand project earlier this year, which The National Tertiary Education Union said left staff and students feeling like an expensive marketing plan took priority over educational standards. However, Vice Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann (pictured) played down concerns, reassuring the public that conditions imposed by the regulator pose “no risk to our current operations or long-term viability”. “It is business as usual for teaching and learning delivery while we work on ensuring our academic governance processes are demonstrated to be robust.” Professor Vann also responded to reports that current CSU students were worried about the credibility of their qualifications and the existence of the university. “Our degrees and course accreditations are unaffected and remain valid and credible. The conditions do not impact current students or alumni in any way,” he said in a statement. The Vice Chancellor also stated that CSU was working closely with TEQSA to resolve the conditional registration renewal requirements and that a Quality Assurance Framework had now been developed and implemented.

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