SCOTT MORRISON HANGS KEITH PITT OUT TO DRY ON PEP 11 EXTENSION

After staunch opposition from local communities and businesses and pressure from Labor Scott Morrison has finally admitted that he doesn’t support the extension of the Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 (PEP 11).

Scott Morrison’s shaky coalition with the Nationals has been tested yet again with the Prime Minister staying silent on PEP 11 until today.

Advent Energy’s PEP 11 application would allow oil and gas exploration drilling off the NSW coast from Port Stephens, Newcastle, the Central Coast and Sydney.

Under the company’s proposal thousands of local jobs in tourism, hospitality, recreational and commercial fishing would be jeopardised.

Scott Morrison’s backdown is in stark contrast to recent comments from the Minister for Resources, who was recently defending the proposal by saying “any rig is unlikely to be visible from the coast”.

Unlike the Morrison Government, Labor’s position on this proposal has been crystal clear.

PEP 11 doesn’t make sense from an economic, environmental, or energy perspective.

Labor has been consulting with Save Our Coast, Surfrider Foundation, other advocacy groups and the broader community. We congratulate them on their fierce advocacy in protecting their region.

We support new energy and resources projects where they make sense, but this was always a dumb idea.

A broad spectrum of people across the community knew it, it’s just a shame it took Scott Morrison so long to realise it.

Rest assured, Matt Thistlethwaite, Emma McBride, Meryl Swanson, Sharon Claydon, and the whole Labor team will not rest until this bad idea is 100 per cent dead and buried.

Labor is against it.

The community is against it.

The NSW Government is against it.

Several Federal Liberal MPs are against it.

With his Prime Minister now joining the ranks of those against the application, is Keith Pitt still “concerned about some of the exaggerated claims being made by groups who are opposed to the permit”?

Either Keith Pitt is wrong or the Prime Minister is.

North Haven man charged over alleged bushfire fraud – Strike Force Roche

Detectives have charged a man over an alleged fraud relating to bushfire support recovery grants.

In April 2020, Strike Force Roche was established by several police districts within the Northern Region to investigate alleged fraudulent claims for bushfire disaster relief and small business grants through government agencies.

Following extensive inquiries, a 31-year-old man was issued a Court Attendance Notice at Kempsey Police Station about 10am today (Saturday 6 March 2021), for two counts of dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception.

Police will allege in court that the man fraudulently obtained two NSW Government grants, receiving a total of $20,000 in April 2020.

The North Haven man was granted conditional bail to appear at Port Macquarie Local Court on Wednesday 21 April 2021.

Investigations under Strike Force Roche continue.

Man charged after threatening police with knife – Port Stephens-Hunter

A man will face court today after allegedly threatening police with a knife as they responded to a noise complaint in the state’s Hunter Region last night.

Shortly before 11pm (Friday 5 March 2021), officers from Port Stephens-Hunter Police District were called to a home on Cambridge Avenue, Lemon Tree Passage following complaints of loud music.

Officers spoke to the female occupant of the premises and left the scene only to return thirty minutes later for another complaint of noise. The occupant again turned the music down and officers left.

On receiving the third call to the home, officers issued the occupant with a formal direction to cease the noise. On leaving, police will allege they heard a 24-year-old man threatening the occupant.

The man walked out into the front yard of the home towards police, allegedly armed with a knife.

Officers called on the man to drop the weapon, however, he failed to comply. A taster was deployed, and the man was arrested.

He was taken to Raymond Terrace Police Station where he was charged with two counts of intimidation, and being armed with intent.

He was refused bail and will appear in Newcastle Local Court today (Saturday 6 March 2021).

Greens renew call for Drug Law Reform

The Australian Laywer’s Alliance “Doing More Harm Than Good: The need for a health-focused approach to drug use” report clearly shows that a national approach to harm minimisation is long overdue.

“The legal and medical sectors have been saying for decades that treating drug use as a criminal matter, rather than a health issue does not work”, Australian Greens Health spokesperson Senator Rachel Siewert said today.

“Criminalising drug use does not stop people from using drugs, it exacerbates harm.

“Addiction and substance abuse is a health issue and we as a community need to treat it that way.

“Stigmatising people with punitive approaches rather than addressing the underlying issues only drives people further from the help and support they need and causes further harm.

“If we want to assist people with addiction and substance abuse issues we need to take a harm minimisation approach and penalise dealers not users.

“This report also highlights that people are still struggling to access medicinal cannabis which for many people is one of the few things that give them quality of life.

“People should not be denied quality of life just because the Government hasn’t got their act together to legislate a regulatory model that actually works and means that people can access the treatments they need. ”

 

National Cabinet

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response and the Australian COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy.

National Cabinet continues to work together to address issues and find solutions to the health and economic consequences of COVID-19.

The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, provided an update on the latest epidemiological data and medical advice in relation to COVID-19.

There have been 29,020 confirmed cases in Australia and, sadly, 909 people have died. There are currently 24 people in hospital. More than 14.5 million tests have been undertaken in Australia.

To date Australia’s existing systems built around social distancing, testing, tracing, local health responses and quarantine have effectively mitigated the broader spread of COVID-19 virus and new variants of COVID-19 into the Australian community. COVID-19 vaccines will further strengthen Australia’s ability to control the virus.

Australia has done well on both the health and economic fronts compared to most countries around the world. National Cabinet noted the significant increase in COVID-19 cases in many countries and the comparative strength of Australia’s effort in addressing COVID compared to most other developed economies. Globally there have been over 115.5 million cases and sadly over 2.5 million deaths, with around 446,000 new cases reported in the last 24 hours.

National Cabinet received a detailed update from Professor Brendan Murphy, Chair of the Science and Industry Technical Advisory Group, and the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly on the Australian Vaccination and Treatment Strategy.

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine roll out is on track. To date 71,867 Australians have received their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Commonwealth Government has allocated over $6 billion to support the vaccine roll out with contracts for over 150 million COVID-19 vaccines, through a diverse vaccine portfolio. Since the last meeting of National Cabinet, the roll out of the Pfizer vaccine commenced on 22 February 2020, with first vaccinations of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine starting today in South Australia. Onshore supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine is on track to commence during the week commencing 22 March 2021. The COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Strategy, agreed by National Cabinet, prioritises those Australians most at risk of COVID-19, including Australia’s front line health workers, aged care residents and staff and quarantine workers.

National Cabinet also discussed this week’s economic growth figures which showed that in the December quarter the Australian economy grew a record 3.1 per cent, the second consecutive quarter above 3 per cent.

The Australian economy has now recovered 85 per cent of its COVID-induced fall, six months earlier and twice as fast as expected in the October Budget.

Our recovery continues to lead the world with our economy outperforming all other advanced economies in 2020. While the United Kingdom contracted by 9.9 per cent, Italy 8.9 per cent, France 8.2 per cent, Canada 5 per cent, Japan 4.8 per cent, the United States 3.3 per cent, Australia was only down by 2.5 per cent.

These results occurred at a time when emergency support was tapering off, with the private sector stepping up. In the December quarter, direct economic support from the Federal Government halved, yet at the same time, the economy grew by 3.1 per cent, 320,000 jobs were added and 2.1 million Australian workers graduated off JobKeeper.

National Cabinet will meet again on Friday 9 April 2021.

COVID-19 Risk Analysis and Response

Today the National Cabinet received the first report from the COVID-19 Risk Analysis and Response Taskforce (Taskforce), led by the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Mr Phil Gaetjens.

The Taskforce advised on Australia’s risk profile over the next six months and options for changing policy settings to ensure greater consistency and coordination across jurisdictions in the management of the pandemic.

The Taskforce identified several factors influencing Australia’s changing risk profile, including improvements in testing and tracing; improvements in quarantine practices; the vaccine rollout; vaccine effectiveness against transmission; and new variants of the virus.

Reopening the economy is critical for Australia’s international competitiveness. If we do not progress our economic reopening as the vaccine rollout occurs, we may fall behind our international competitors.

There are some unknowns in Australia’s changing risk profile. Decision-making related to reopening the economy will be informed by expert advice on the economic, social and health considerations.

Over coming months, the Taskforce will consider the changing risk environment in 2021; the impact of Australia’s vaccine rollout; economic, social and health considerations; and options to implement consistent policy settings across jurisdictions to ensure predictability and community confidence.

The Taskforce will continue to report to the National Cabinet monthly.

Pacific Workers

National Cabinet agreed to pilot pre-departure quarantine arrangements for Pacific workers in their home countries. South Australia has indicated its intention to opt into the arrangement to support their local agriculture sector, subject to finalisation of arrangements. Other states are considering the arrangement with further details of in-country testing and quarantine arrangements.

Since the National Cabinet agreed to recommence the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme more than 2,600 Pacific and Timorese workers have arrived in Australia. However, there remains significant labour shortages and more support for our agriculture sector is needed.

The Government will explore in-country quarantine arrangements for Pacific workers with eligible, low-risk Pacific Neighbours.

COVID-19 Vaccination Roll Out Strategy

National Cabinet noted the detailed vaccine roll out plans. Published efficacy data, particularly from the United Kingdom, strongly supports Australia’s choice of both the roll out of the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines.

The Commonwealth, states and territories are progressively scaling up vaccination sites as increased supplies of vaccines become available.

National Cabinet agreed that states and territories should harmonise legislation and regulation to allow COVID-19 vaccinations to occur in community pharmacies.

International Passenger Arrival Caps

National Cabinet reaffirmed a shared priority to supporting Australians to return home.

Current international passenger arrival caps will continue to 30 April 2021 pending a further review of arrangements at the next meeting of National Cabinet.

National Cabinet noted Western Australia’s staged return to a cap of 1025 passengers per week from 26 March which commenced with an increase to 900 passengers per week on 1 March. This follows a decision by the WA Government to reduce the number of international air arrivals as it undertakes a review of hotel quarantine processes.

National Cabinet also noted a commitment from Victoria to resume international passenger flights into Melbourne as soon as possible. International flights into Victoria were suspended on 13 February with the exception of flights under the New Zealand safe travel zone arrangement, and international freight.

Howard Springs

The Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments reached agreement to increase the capacity of the Centre for National Resilience at Howard Springs after the end of the cyclone season in the Northern Territory.

This will increase the capacity of Howard Springs from 850 persons per fortnight to 2,000 persons per fortnight with a ramp up from late April 2021, subject to capital works, and full capacity between June and December 2021.

The Commonwealth Government will also continue to support repatriation flights for Australians through to the end of 2021, as required.

Final details are being worked through including the scope of works required to upgrade the facility, and strategies to recruit additional clinical and welfare staff.

The Centre for National Resilience is the Commonwealth Government’s response to the National Cabinet commissioned National Review of Hotel Quarantine conducted by Ms Jane Halton, AO PSM.

ROADMAP TO REFORM ROLLED OUT FOR INFRASTRUCTURE CONTRIBUTIONS

The NSW Government will undertake major reforms to the infrastructure contributions system, unlocking up to $12 billion in productivity benefits through changes to how public facilities and services are funded through the planning system.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes today announced the Government had accepted the NSW Productivity Commission’s 29 recommendations for legislative, policy and operational reform of infrastructure charges.

“These important reforms will ensure communities across the State will have the services and facilities they need and is an example of the type of microeconomic reform that will boost productivity and make NSW an even more attractive place to live and invest,” Mr Perrottet said.

“These changes will help drive our economic recovery from the pandemic by providing local jobs on smaller-scale infrastructure projects by encouraging investment in new housing supply and in the end will create better connected communities.”

The NSW Government will publish its blueprint to implement the recommendations and how it will be delivered in the next 18 months.

“This is the biggest shake-up of the system in three decades and could deliver billions of dollars of benefits over the next 20 years through better services, savings for business and better public spaces,” Mr Stokes said.

“Solving the uncertainty of infrastructure contributions was one of four pillars of our Planning Reform Action Plan. That’s why we’re adopting the Productivity Commission’s recommendations in full to build a more timely, transparent and certain planning system.

“New and growing communities need new roads, parks, schools and hospitals, and it is imperative industry and communities have a clear understanding of how these services get delivered.

Alongside changes to the local government rate peg methodology, we’re getting the settings right for local communities to proactively plan for growth. Digital tools will also help create certainty for investors, communities and local government.

The NSW Government will introduce amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to the Parliament in coming months to facilitate the recommendations.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment will establish consultation groups to work with local government, industry and the community on the implementation process.

For more information visit www.planning.nsw.gov.au/infrastructure-contributions-reform.

COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS TO EASE AT SCHOOLS

Restrictions in NSW schools will be eased to allow parents back on to school grounds, dancing activities to proceed and singing groups to recommence in a COVID-safe way, the NSW Government announced today.

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell announced the following restrictions will be eased on Monday, 8 March 2021:

  • Parents and caretakers are able to enter school grounds but should continue to follow COVID-safe practices, including physical distancing.
  • Parents and caretakers can attend school sporting events. School sporting should align with requirements for community sporting competitions and training activities in NSW.
  • There are no recommended limits on singing groups in schools, including for in-class educational activities such as group repetition, chanting, recitation, or singing activities. Five metres is recommended between a group of performing singers and the audience, where practicable.
  • Dancing activities, including dance classes, balls, formals and social events, can proceed, but organisers should select venues with adequate floor space to comply with any venue restrictions.
  • Gathering of parents and community members for school events, such as P&C meetings, can continue in a COVID-safe way.

Ms Mitchell thanked NSW school communities for their patience and innovative thinking during the pandemic.

“We are grateful to parents, teachers and principals who have worked tirelessly to keep school communities safe during the pandemic and ensure students continue to receive a high-quality education,” Ms Mitchell said.

“I am pleased parents are now allowed to return to school grounds, watch school sports and be involved again in school activities.

“Schools will continue to operate in a COVID-safe way with less restrictions in place. Hand sanitiser and enhanced cleaning will remain in place in all schools.”

Health Minister Brad Hazzard thanked school communities for following the health advice.

“NSW started its vaccine rollout and we have been able to ease restrictions, including in schools, which is a terrific achievement,” Mr Hazzard said.

“However, the pandemic is not over yet. We still need principals, teachers, parents and students to continue to follow the health advice while at the same time enabling parents to support their children’s studies.”

Teachers, students or parents who have COVID-19 symptoms should not attend school until a negative test has been received.

Detailed guidance for schools has been updated to reflect these changes and principals are pleased to welcome parents and carers back to school.

Schools will continue to have COVID-19 Safety Plans and record keeping procedures in place. Visitors to NSW public schools must still use of the Service NSW QR Code system at the school’s reception.

WOMEN’S SPORT FUNDING BOOST

Sports can apply for up to $650,000 in grants to assist women’s sport following the opening of the NSW Government’s Her Sport Her Way Grant Program.

The Her Sport Her Way Grant Program provides more than $2.5 million over four years to State Sporting Organisations and State Sporting Organisations for People with Disability to help increase participation, promote leadership and encourage inclusivity.

Minister for Sport Geoff Lee said the NSW Government is committed to improving the participation of women in sport as players and leaders.

“With International Women’s Day next week it is the perfect time for sports to consider innovative ways to get more women and girls involved in sport, both on and off the field,” Mr Lee said.

Minister for Women Bronnie Taylor said the program will be a great way to bring communities together and promote leadership.

“We’re committed to building a safer, stronger NSW, and this means enabling women by increasing opportunities to participate and making sure every woman and girl can enjoy their sport to the fullest and feel at ease before and after they hit the field.”

The Her Sport Her Way Grants Program is part of the NSW Government’s strategy to deliver positive change for women’s sport in NSW.

Grants of $10,000 – $50,000 are available with Sports able to seek grants for multiple projects across various locations.

In 2019, 23 sporting organisations shared $635,000 in grants for 27 projects, including triathlon, water polo and wheelchair sports.

Triathlon NSW delivered a series of women-only triathlons across eleven locations with a focus on 12-25 year old females who had never participated in the sport before under the theme ‘finish lines, not finish times’.

“The Her Sport Her Way Grant Program enabled 11 of our clubs across NSW to run very successful and beginner-friendly multisport events for women of all ages,” Triathlon NSW lead staff on the ‘Her Sport Her Way’ program, Alana Leabeater said.

“We received wonderful feedback from first-time triathletes who thrived in the welcoming and supportive atmosphere at these events, and who are looking forward to continuing their triathlon journey with their local club this season.”

Water Polo NSW used its grant to deliver the ‘Girls Making Waves’ program which introduces girls to basic water polo skills and team building in a fun environment.

“Girls Making Waves provides girls in regional and metro NSW with the opportunity to try water polo, splash around in inflatable tubes and quite simply have fun,” Vice President Water Polo NSW Suzanne Ramke said.

Wheelchair Sports NSW created the Roll Model series to increase the visibility of female role models in disability sport which included the How I Roll anthem featuring ARIA nominated vocalist Casey Donovan.

“Our Her Sport Her Way Grant allowed us to reach girls and women with disabilities through the passion point of music. The ‘How I Roll’ campaign will have a lasting legacy for female participation in wheelchair sport,” CEO of Wheelchair Sports NSW/ACT Mick Garnett said.

The Her Sport Her Way Grants Program is open until 12 April 2021. For further information visit:www.sport.nsw.gov.au/clubs/grants/her-sport-her-way

Double stabbing near Cessnock

Police will address the media this morning after two men were stabbed near Cessnock overnight.

About 1.50am (Friday 5 March 2021), emergency services were called to a home on Shalistan Street, Cliftleigh, about 20km north-east of Cessnock, following reports two men were fighting and had been stabbed.

On arrival, police found a 23-year-old man with stab wounds to the chest and head. He was treated at the scene before being taken to John Hunter Hospital. He remains in a stable condition.

Police were then told a second man left the scene prior to their arrival.

A short time later, police were notified when the 27-year-old man attended Maitland Hospital suffering stab wounds to the chest and neck. He was later taken to John Hunter Hospital where he is reported to be in a critical condition.

Officers from Hunter Valley Police District established a crime scene and commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Motorcyclist dies – Cardiff

A motorcyclist has died following a two-vehicle crash in Lake Macquarie this morning.

About 11.40am today (Friday 5 March 2021), emergency services were called to the intersection of Mitchell Road and Ranton Street, Cardiff, following reports a motorcycle travelling north and a truck travelling south had collided.

The motorcyclist, a man believed to be aged in his 70s, was ejected before being trapped underneath a stationary vehicle until the arrival of emergency services; where he was pronounced deceased.

The 46-year-old male truck driver and the female driver of the vehicle were uninjured and taken to John Hunter Hospital for mandatory testing.

Officers attached to Lake Macquarie Police District established a crime scene and have commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash.

Anyone who witnessed the crash or who may have dashcam footage is urged to come forward.