The McGowan Government has undertaken Australia's first audit of regional telecommunications infrastructure to map the gaps in Western Australia's digital connectivity.
The audit captures the location and capacity of commercial, private and government-owned telecommunications assets across WA to establish gaps in coverage and where assets could be leveraged to expand connectivity.
As could be expected, the audit has found that most commercial telecommunications infrastructure is focused on population centres - however, government and privately owned assets such as radio towers are more widely and evenly spread.
This creates an opportunity for government and industry to leverage off these assets to harness the benefits of 21st century technology.
The findings of the audit will be used to guide investment of the State Government's $22 million Agricultural Telecommunications Infrastructure Improvement Fund to drive productivity gains and jobs growth in agriculture.
Comments attributed to Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan:
"No one has ever taken an across-the-board look at the telecommunications infrastructure available across an entire Australian State or Territory, and already we are seeing interest from other State Governments in replicating this process.
"Our audit shows there are vast numbers of government and industry-owned mobile and radio towers spread across the State, as well as some private fibre.
"These assets could provide the basis to plug the connectivity gaps in regional WA that are stopping our farmers from harnessing the benefits of the agtech revolution.
"The invaluable data collected by this audit will ensure our $22 million Agricultural Telecommunications Infrastructure Improvement Fund is invested in areas where connectivity needs are most critical in the most cost-effective manner."
Comments attributed to Innovation and ICT Minister Dave Kelly:
"The McGowan Government is committed to supporting a globally competitive local economy.
"Without proper access to the internet, our agricultural industry can't take advantage of the latest technologies and properly connect to their markets.
"The lack of business-grade internet connectivity is hampering the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that our farmers are famous for.
"This audit will help us to bring a strategic view to this infrastructure in our regions, and assist in making sure the WA agricultural industry remains world class."
Drivers now face tough new penalties if they are caught using a vehicle fitted with a device such as a laser jammer or scrambler, designed to interfere with speed cameras.
The State Government has made amendments to the Road Traffic Code 2000 that now make it an offence for any person to drive a motor vehicle fitted with any device that would disrupt the operation of a speed camera.
Anyone caught with such a device fitted to their vehicle or any physical barrier preventing detection now faces a $1,200 fine and the loss of seven demerit points, doubling to 14 demerit points on a holiday weekend.
The penalty increases to $1,500 for those driving a heavy vehicle.
WA Police Force can also issue infringements to drivers who try to avoid a speed camera by driving in a way that will affect the operation of the camera, such as tailgating or driving off road.
Comments attributed to Police and Road Safety Minister Michelle Roberts:
"We've given ample warning of these new laws coming into effect.
"Drivers caught with one of these gadgets face hefty fines and demerit point penalties.
"Speed is a significant factor in too many fatal and serious injury crashes in Western Australia, with 67 people killed in speed-related crashes in 2016.
"These new laws show the State Government won't tolerate people who use this technology to travel at excessive speeds and put themselves and other road users at risk."
The McGowan Government today gazetted regulations confirming its earlier administrative ban on hydraulic fracture stimulation (fracking) in the South-West, Peel and Perth regions.
This delegated legislation also supports the State-wide fracking moratorium, that has already been implemented, while the scientific inquiry is underway.
The inquiry, expected to be completed within 12 months, will address community concerns around fracking.
Led by the Environmental Protection Authority chairman, Dr Tom Hatton, the inquiry will hold public meetings in Perth and the Mid-West and Kimberley regions, with opportunities for public submissions.
Community members can express their views to the inquiry online, submissions are open until March 19, 2018. For more information, visit http://www.frackinginquiry.wa.gov.au
Comments attributed to Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston:
"The McGowan Government recognises the need to protect the State's environment from risks associated with fracking.
"While the fracking ban in the South-West, Peel and Perth regions has already been achieved, the regulations provide a permanent ban in these areas.
"We will consider the community's views and the outcome of the inquiry in forming our decision on the future of fracking in Western Australia."
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly today unveiled a report which shows the western rock lobster industry contributes more than $500 million to the local economy and supports thousands of Western Australian jobs.
The Economic Contribution of the Western Rock Lobster Industry report is the first ever formal assessment of the economic and social contribution that the harvest of 6,300 tonnes of western rock lobster makes to WA.
The snapshot of how the industry performed in 2016-17 was commissioned by the Western Rock Lobster Council and shows the breadth of the supply chain and how the introduction of fishing quotas in 2011 has helped ongoing sustainability.
Overall, the western rock lobster industry's economic contribution of more than $500 million to Western Australia is comparable to the State's other major primary industries, including wool, sheep meat and milk.
The report also explores the broader industry value chain and its economic and social contribution to many coastal communities.
In 2000 Western Australia's West Coast Rock Lobster Fishery was the first fishery in the world to be certified as ecologically sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. In 2017 it was the first fishery to be certified as sustainable for a fourth time.
Comments attributed to Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly:
"WA's iconic western rock lobster supports a vibrant industry which helps generate an impressive half a billion dollars for the State each year.
"It is also a valuable WA employer, with the report showing more than 2,400 jobs are linked to the fishery, with the majority of those jobs in coastal communities between Shark Bay and Cape Leeuwin.
"Western Australians can be proud that our Western Rock Lobster Fishery continues to support regional jobs and economies, all while being certified as ecologically sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
"It is great to see our world-class fishery grow from strength to strength and I have no doubt it will continue to do so through its commitment to science, sustainability and quality seafood."
A 2016 survey of regional Western Australians has underscored the importance of the McGowan Government's Plan for Jobs, with employment prospects a major concern for regional residents.
The Living in the Regions report, released today, directly surveyed more than 10,000 regional Western Australians to tap into their attitudes, perceptions and priorities to give a clear picture of regional Western Australians.
More than half of regional residents said employment opportunities were an important reason for living in the regions but satisfaction with employment prospects dropped noticeably since the last time the survey was conducted in 2013.
The McGowan Government is investing more than $4 billion into creating jobs and projects in regional WA that really matter to regional residents.
Survey respondents also indicated concerns with education and training options in 2016; the 2017-18 State Budget committed $377 million to invest in regional schools, classrooms and training facilities.
Digital connectivity was another area of concern - the State Government has committed $60 million over the forward estimates to improve regional telecommunications.
The overall attitude of people living in regional WA remains positive with 59 per cent of young people wanting to stay in the regions, and 68 per cent of respondents saying they loved the regional lifestyle.
The full report is available at http://www.drd.wa.gov.au
Comments attributed to Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan:
"The results of this survey reflect the economic reality of the last few years, with regional employment growth averaging just 1.2 per cent from 2012 to 2016.
"This is why our Government's focus on job-creating infrastructure and investing in the projects regional residents really need is so important.
"We need to drive economic growth in the regions and the $4 billion we will invest over the next four years will facilitate investment, job creation, industry diversification and address priority economic infrastructure and skills development."
International Volunteer Day celebrations will conclude with a garden party at Government House today to honour some of the State's longest-serving volunteers.
Her Excellency the Honourable Kerry Sanderson AC, Governor of Western Australia will join Volunteering Minister Mick Murray to present awards to eight volunteers who have volunteered for one organisation for 45 years or more.
Margaret Evans, of Gledhow, and Linda Leighton, of Albany, will be recognised for their volunteer work at the Albany Light Opera and Theatre Company.
Both performers, Mrs Evans has volunteered as costume designer and director, while Mrs Leighton has volunteered for 54 years as costume designer, and in front of house and executive positions.
George Appelbee of Quinns Rocks will be honoured for serving his community as a Justice of the Peace for 54 years.
At an event at the Parmelia Hilton today, an additional 41 volunteers will be recognised for their contributions of 25 years or more as a volunteer in their communities.
International Volunteer Day events have been held across Western Australia, including 42 events supported by grants of up to $1,000 from the McGowan Government.
Today's celebrations will be followed by a meeting tomorrow of the new Volunteering Community Reference Group (VCRG).
Mr Murray established the group to learn about trends and issues affecting the WA volunteering sector and hear feedback on the implementation of the WA Volunteering Strategy. Establishing the VCRG was a McGowan Government election commitment.
For more on the WA Volunteer Service Awards, visit http://www.communities.wa.gov.au
Comments attributed to Volunteering Minister Mick Murray:
"I am very lucky as Minister for Volunteering to meet so many extraordinary people. The effort and time they put into supporting their communities never fails to impress me.
"Volunteers are an invaluable resource, providing expertise, skills and hard work to support organisations and individuals to achieve their goals. Quite simply, many organisations could not exist without them.
"In WA, about 80 per cent of us volunteer our time to contribute to the running of at least one organisation, and most maintain their volunteer activity throughout their lives.
"I congratulate the recipients of today's Volunteer Service Awards and acknowledge the commitment by thousands of other Western Australians to making a difference to our community through volunteering."
Applications are now open for a $500,000 grants program to support growth opportunities for the Western Australian potato industry.
The Potato Industry Assistance Grants program makes individual grants of between $50,000 and $200,000 available for projects that can deliver industry-wide benefits to the Western Australian potato industry.
Successful projects will be selected through a competitive, merit-based process by an independent selection panel.
The grants program is part of the broader $1.5 million Horticultural Research Recovery Fund to assist WA vegetable growers find new opportunities in international and domestic markets. Successful grant holders will need to make a matching funding contribution to the project.
Applications close at 12pm on Wednesday January 31, 2018. More information is available at http://www.agric.wa.gov.au/hrf
Comments attributed to Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan:
"This has been a tough year for WA's potato growers, with the tomato potato psyllid outbreak restricting access to Eastern States' markets.
"While we are still working to regain market access for potato growers, we need to explore new opportunities in processing and in new markets.
"The program will target projects capable of driving growth and competitiveness for the industry, focused on world-class production systems and efficient processing.
"We want to see the potato industry's creative streak shine; from using excess product for premium potato chips to establishing a potato vodka industry, this program is a real opportunity to explore how we can find new premium markets for our growers."