LIGHT RAIL OPENS IN THE HEART OF SYDNEY

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Transport Minister Andrew Constance today officially opened light rail services from Circular Quay to Randwick.

The first passengers have ridden on the new L2 Randwick Line following a ribbon cutting ceremony at Circular Quay.

“It’s an historic day for Sydney as light rail takes passengers down George Street for the first time in 61 years,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“George Street used to be a car park with hundreds of buses and thousands of cars congested every day. Now it is one of the best boulevards in the world.

“The new network will move up to 13,500 commuters an hour during peak time, with one coupled tram holding 450 passengers, which is equivalent to nine standard buses.

“The new pedestrian boulevard will create a vibrant new shopping and dining precinct, bringing people along the route to enjoy everything it has to offer.”

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the buzz created by the testing of the light rail and at today’s opening, showed there was overwhelming support for the project.

“The new light rail line will revolutionise the way that the people of Sydney travel through the CBD and South East for years to come,” Mr Constance said.

“Opening the new light rail line between Randwick and Circular Quay marks the next major step to building a modern new public transport network to cater for Sydney’s growing population and befits our world class city.”

Trams on the L2 Randwick Line are fare-free this weekend.

Transport for NSW has partnered with Rural Aid to raise funds to support regional communities and farmers. Volunteers are collecting donations along the light rail route this weekend.

Three charged following police pursuit – Newcastle

Three men have been charged following a pursuit with police in the Newcastle area overnight.

Around 2.25am (Saturday 14 December 2019), officers attached to Newcastle City Police District observed a black Mazda sedan – suspected stolen – parked at a service station on Glebe Road in Merewether.

Officers approached two men, both aged 23, inside the service station, at which time a third 23-year-old – who was sitting inside the Mazda – drove from the scene.

Upon searching the two men, officers allegedly located over $9,000 in cash and ammunition on one of them. Both men were arrested and taken to Newcastle Police Station.

Other police pursued the Mazda through the suburbs of Birmingham Gardens, Waratah, Jesmond, Heatherbrae, Raymond Terrace and Williamtown. Road spikes were deployed on Tourle Street, Mayfield West causing the tyres to deflate. The car continued until it crashed into a set of traffic lights at the intersection of Tourle Street and Industrial Drive.

The 23-year-old driver left the vehicle and was pursued on foot before being arrested in a backyard of a home on Groongale Street in Mayfield West.

Officers located and seized two bags dropped near the scene. Upon searching the bags, police allegedly found a number of pills, mobile phones, gloves and a knife.

The driver was taken to John Hunter Hospital for mandatory testing before being taken to Newcastle Police Station.

Upon searching the stolen Mazda, officers allegedly located a .22 rifle under the seat. The firearm was seized and will be forensically examined.

The 23-year-old driver was charged with police pursuit – not stop – drive recklessly, drive motor vehicle during disqualification period and drive conveyance taken without consent of owner.

The second 23-year-old was charged with possess ammunition without holding licence/permit/authority and be carried in conveyance taken without consent of owner.

The third 23-year-old was charged with drive conveyance taken without consent of owner and custody of knife in public place.

All three were refused bail to appear in Newcastle Local Court tomorrow (Sunday 15 December 2019).

ATO tax report proof of broken system

Data released in the ATO’s Tax Transparency Report today showing that a third of our largest companies paid no corporate tax last year are proof that the system is rigged in favour of big corporations who make massive political donations, said Leader of the Australian Greens Dr Richard Di Natale.

“We have two sets of rules in this country: one for big corporations who can afford to donate to Labor or the Liberals and another for the rest of us – and this report proves it,” Di Natale said.

“What kind of message does it send when a multi-billion dollar corporation like Whitehaven Coal pays less tax than a nurse on $54,000 a year? It’s time that we ended the loopholes that allow big, polluting companies to opt out of paying their fair share towards our essential services.

“If you can afford to make massive political donations so political parties will deliver policies that increase your company profits, then you can afford to pay your fair share of tax,” said Greens Democracy Spokesperson Sen. Larissa Waters.

“Our democracy is sold out. We need to stop the rorts that let big corporates get away with tax avoidance and remove the toxic influence of donations from our parliament .”

NOTE: Of the top 100 companies that paid no tax, 22 are fossil fuel companies:

EXXONMOBIL AUSTRALIA PTY LTD
WOODSIDE PETROLEUM LTD
AUSTRALIA PACIFIC LNG PTY LTD
CHEVRON AUSTRALIA HOLDINGS PTY LTD
SHELL ENERGY HOLDINGS AUSTRALIA LIMITED
PEABODY AUSTRALIA HOLDCO PTY LTD
YANCOAL AUSTRALIA LIMITED
HOPE DOWNS MARKETING COMPANY PTY LTD
QGC UPSTREAM HOLDINGS PTY LIMITED
SANTOS LIMITED
BHP (AUS) DDS PTY LTD
PIONEER SAIL HOLDINGS PTY LTD
PUMA ENERGY (AUSTRALIA) HOLDINGS PTY LTD
WHITEHAVEN COAL LIMITED
INTERNATIONAL POWER (AUSTRALIA) HOLDINGS PTY LTD
PETRONAS AUSTRALIA PTY LIMITED
CNOOC GAS AND POWER (AUS) INVESTMENT PTY LTD
QUADRANT ENERGY HOLDINGS PTY LTD
ULAN COAL MINES LIMITED
CLERMONT COAL MINES LTD
BANPU AUSTRALIA CO. PTY LTD
CONOCOPHILLIPS AUSTRALIA GAS HOLDINGS PTY LTD

Government response to Digital Platforms Inquiry misses the mark

After dragging its feet for over half a year, the Morrison Government has finally delivered its response to the Final Report of the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry.

While its findings were broad-ranging, the recommendations do not go anywhere near far enough to restore funding to the ABC and SBS, protect local content quotas and fund public interest journalism, said Senator for SA and Greens’ Spokesperson for Communications Sarah Hanson-Young.

“Despite weeks of chest-thumping, the Morrison Government has buckled to the pressure of the tech giants in its lacklustre response to the review,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“The recommendations from the ACCC were modest at best. Yet, the Liberals could barely commit to implementing them. Instead, they’ve kicked the can down the road by announcing yet another review and yet more consultation.

“The Government has side-stepped much needed reform to protect Australian journalism and content. Everyday Australians deserve to know that regardless of how they consume their news and entertainment that it is factual, quality and is a good dose of Australian made.

“We know that Australian content and children’s content must be protected, to ensure that Australian voices and stories continue to be heard. We also know that streaming video on demand (SVOD) services don’t abide by the same rules on local content as other players.

“The Greens will fight hard in the Parliament for proper protections and support for Australian journalists and content creators.

“There have been successive reviews of news media over the last decade, from the Finkelstein Review to the Convergence Review, and a separate Senate Inquiries into the Future of Public Interest Journalism and Australian Content. Australia has one of the most concentrated media markets in the world, and right now, ours is continuing to trend in the wrong direction.

“It is clear that decisive action must be taken now, and not over some ambiguous, non-committal work period, as outlined by the Liberals today.

“The Commonwealth must play a stronger role in strengthening the health and diversity of our news media. Now is not the time to be complacent.”

Libs go nuclear at the beck and call of mining lobbyists

The Greens have condemned the Liberals’ plan to introduce nuclear power at the behest of their big corporate mining donors, in the Coalition-majority led report of the House Standing Committee on Environment and Energy.

“This report should alarm all Australians. It has belled the cat on the Coalition’s open mind on nuclear power in Australia,” Said Senator for SA and Greens Spokesperson for Nuclear, Sarah Hanson-Young.

“At the behest of the nuclear and mining lobby, the Morrison Government endorsed report opens the door nuclear power stations and subsequent waste dumps here in Australia.

“This is absurd at best and dangerous at worst.

“As NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said earlier this week, Australia is best placed to take advantage of renewable energy, which is now the lowest cost form of new energy electricity generation.

“It has been proven, time and again, that nuclear power is expensive, water intensive, deeply dangerous, with an unresolvable issue of dealing with toxic nuclear waste.

“Nuclear power has no benefit but a legacy of deadly waste on our children and their environment for thousands of years to come.

“Yet the Liberals are clearly doing the bidding of their mines and minerals lobbyist masters by even entertaining the notion of further nuclear power.

“We know the future is in renewable energy. The Greens and South Australia are leading the way by diversifying our sources across wind, solar and storage.

“It is incumbent upon the sensible centre of the Liberal Party to quash this notion, once and for all.”

Vale Jill Emberson 1959 – 2019

City of Newcastle is working with the family of Jill Emberson on a public memorial to be held at City Hall on 23 January 2020, following her sad passing overnight.

Lord Mayor of Newcastle Nuatali Nelmes said as Newcastle’s Citizen of the Year in 2019, Jill was a lion-hearted advocate in the fight against ovarian cancer.

“We are in awe of the courage Jill showed following her cancer diagnosis, as she remained determined to achieve better outcomes for others despite her own failing health.

Jill-inside-cropped.jpg

“She used her own diagnosis to help raise invaluable awareness of ovarian cancer and more than $20 million for research.

“Jill was so incredibly generous with her time, despite knowing her cancer was terminal. I was in awe of her willingness to work with the city and even to make herself available to speak with our staff, all the while in ever worsening pain and suffering,” Cr Nelmes said.

Jill’s career in journalism gave her a platform to document the sometimes-lonely battle she and other women faced against the deadliest of all women’s cancers.

After she was forced off air in early 2016 due to illness, Jill began to advocate for more funding and research while undergoing her own treatment.

Upon returning to the airwaves in 2018, Jill intimately documented her experience with ovarian cancer in the popular podcast Still Jill. In June last year, policy makers took note of her National Press Club address, ‘The Cancer Down Under Killing Too Many Women’, before the Federal Government, influenced heavily by her fierce lobbying, committed $20 million to ovarian cancer research earlier in 2019.

“I am humbled and honoured to be named Citizen of the Year in Newcastle and will use this precious opportunity to raise more awareness about ovarian cancer,” Jill said when honoured at City Hall on Australia Day 2019.

“About 1,500 Australian women are diagnosed with Ovarian cancer each year but our survival rate has been stuck at 45 per cent for decades.

“Research is the only solution to bring our survival into line with other more common cancers and for that we need awareness and funding.”

The official colour of Ovarian Cancer Australia – teal – shone from the face of the City Hall clock that night, and the City plans to honour Jill once again following consultation with her family.

Vale Jill Emberson.

CREATING A SAFER STATE FOR OUR CHILDREN

Strengthened reporting, registration and data-sharing schemes targeting child abuse and record investments into support services for survivors and at-risk children are all helping to keep our kids safe according to a report released today.

Attorney General Mark Speakman and Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said NSW’s second annual report card provides an update on the Government’s actions in 2019 to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“Protecting children from abuse and improving access to justice for survivors are the bedrock of the NSW Government’s response to the findings of the Royal Commission,” Mr Speakman said.

“We are rolling out the Government’s $127 million package of reforms responding to the Royal Commission, which will secure a safer future for our children and ensure we are doing everything we can to stop the horrors of the past being repeated.”

Highlights of the report include:

  • a NSW-led national initiative enabling child protection workers to identify whether a child or person of interest may be known in another state or territory
  • landmark legislative reforms to strengthen the child protection reportable conduct scheme and expand mandatory reporter groups
  • better protection and support for children in out-of-home care
  • allocation of  funding for community-based support services
  • expanded professional education and training about child safety
  • increased protections for young people in youth justice centres, and
  • significant improvements to specialist sexual assault services.

“While we have made great strides in creating safer environments for our children and young people, there is still much more work to be done,” Mr Ward said.

“We will continue to work with government and non-government organisations to build on our progress and make sure the framework for protecting children is as strong as possible.”

The annual progress report for the NSW Government’s response to the Royal Commission can be accessed at https://bit.ly/2LMCDc9.

NSW GOVERNMENT WEEKLY UPDATE – 13 DECEMBER 2019

STRONG AND STABLE: NSW BUDGET ON TRACK TO DELIVER SOLID SURPLUS

  • The NSW Half-Yearly Review (HYR) has confirmed the continued strength of the State’s Budget despite challenges such as the worst drought on record, recent volatility in the housing market and lower household consumption.
  • The HYR forecasts a surplus of $702 million in 2019-20, down $314 million since the 2019-20 Budget, with average surpluses increasing to $1.9 billion over the four years to 2022-23 (up from $1.7 billion), bolstered by early signs of an improvement in the housing market.

LEVEL TWO WATER RESTRICTIONS IN GREATER SYDNEY AND THE ILLAWARRA

  • Level 2 water restrictions came into effect in Sydney, Blue Mountains and the Illawarra on 10 December.
  • Under the new Level 2 water restrictions people are required to use a bucket or watering can to water their gardens between approved times, cars can only be washed with a bucket or taken to a commercial car wash and topping up of pools and spas is limited to 15 minutes a day with a trigger nozzle.
  • Fines will still apply for breaches of water restrictions – $220 for residential breaches and $550 for businesses. For up-to-date information on Level 2 restrictions visit lovewater.sydney/restrictions.

DRUG AMNESTY BINS FOR MUSIC FESTIVALS

  • Music festivalgoers will have a chance to discard illegal drugs into amnesty bins without fear of prosecution or penalty as part of the NSW Government’s ongoing efforts to reduce drug-related deaths and injuries.
  • The measure formed a key part of the NSW Government’s response to the Deputy Coroner’s recommendations following her inquest into the deaths of six patrons at NSW music festivals.
  • The NSW Government will also extend targeted education campaigns, improve information sharing between State agencies about the toxicology of drugs found at music festivals and will work with festival organisers to ensure they continue to improve the health services being provided at their events.

GOVERNMENT INVESTS IN THE FUTURE OF AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION

  • A new model of agricultural education will benefit students across the State for years to come, with the NSW Government announcing a new Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education in the Hawkesbury, new selective streams of agricultural education at Richmond High School, and upgrades to the existing Hurlstone Agricultural High School at Glenfield.
  • This initiative means children from as far as Walgett to Woollahra will have an opportunity to study and consider a career in agriculture.
  • The Department of Education will continue to work with Landcom on the future of the Glenfield Precinct Plan.

HISTORY MADE AS METRO COMPLETES HARBOUR TUNNEL

  • The first metro railway tunnel to be built deep under Sydney Harbour has been completed in an historic milestone for public transport in Sydney.
  • Tunnel boring machine (TBM) Kathleen is digging twin railway tunnels under Sydney Harbour as part of Sydney Metro – Australia’s biggest public transport project.
  • Metro trains will start running through the tunnels in 2024 extending the North West Metro into the city and beyond to Bankstown.

LIGHT RAIL REMINDER FOR SAFETY’S SAKE

  • Sydneysiders are being encouraged to play it safe around the new CBD and South East Light Rail ahead of passenger services commencing this weekend.
  • Light rail safety promotions have ramped up in recent weeks aimed at pedestrians and cyclists, while new ground markings have been installed across intersections to deter motorists from queuing across the tracks and delaying trams.
  • TfNSW has partnered with Rural Aid to help raise funds for NSW farmers and regional communities doing it tough. Rural Aid volunteers will collect donations at light rail stops all weekend in lieu of passengers paying a fare for riding the services.

NEW NESA LEADERSHIP TO GUIDE EDUCATION REFORMS

  • Chancellor of Western Sydney University and former head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Professor Peter Shergold AC, will take the helm of the authority responsible for curriculum, assessment, school regulation and teacher quality across NSW public and non-government schools (NESA).
  • Professor Shergold will deliver a review of the NSW curriculum in 2020 which will provide NSW with a once in a generation opportunity to revitalise the school curriculum for students, the community and the economy continue to thrive well into the 21st century.

Single vehicle fatal – Hunter region

A man has died after a single-vehicle crash in the Hunter region this morning.

Around 2.35am today (Saturday 14 December 2019), a silver Toyota Landcruiser utility was travelling on Sandy Creek Road, Mount Vincent – near Cessnock – when it left the road and collided with a concrete drain, before rolling on its roof.

Officers attached to the Hunter Valley Police District attended, along with NSW Ambulance paramedics.

The driver, and the sole occupant of the vehicle – a 23-year-old male – died at the scene. He is yet to be formally identified.

A crime scene has been established and investigations into the circumstances surrounding the crash are continuing.

A report will be prepared for the Coroner.

Motorcycle rider charged after police pursuit – Lake Macquarie

A man will appear in court today after a police pursuit in the Lake Macquarie area this week.

About 12.20am on Wednesday (11 December 2019), police observed a Black Harley Davidson motorcycle travelling south on Merrigum Street, Windale – south of Newcastle.

The motorcycle rider attempted to avoid police using a median strip before speeding away in a northerly direction.

Officers attached to Lake Macquarie Police District pursued the bike as it travelled down Balemo Crescent and Cooreen Way, before the motorcycle, driven by a 25-year-old man, crashed at speed into a concrete garden bed on Cooreen Way.

The man then fled the scene, followed on foot by police and the dog unit.

Upon searching the motorcycle, police located a small, single shot-handgun lying on the ground.

Shortly after, the man was located in a garden on Kestrel Avenue in Mount Hutton.

He was arrested and taken to Belmont Police Station before being transferred to John Hunter Hospital to be treated for minor burns, minor lacerations and a possible broken collarbone.

Upon release from hospital, the 24-year-old was charged with the following offences:

Drive motor vehicle during disqualification period
Acquire pistol-subject to firearms prohibition order
Possess unregistered firearm-pistol
Not keep firearm safely-pistol
Possess unregistered unauthorised pistol in public place
Refuse or fail to submit to taking of blood sample
He was refused bail to appear in Belmont Local Court today (Friday 13 December 2019).