MAJOR UPGRADE FOR SYDNEY’S CRUISE TERMINAL

Two new giant gangways have arrived at the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

The custom-built walkways have been designed to better support visits from larger cruise ships, some which carry over 5,000 passengers.

Arriving fully assembled, the gangways were unloaded by crane and installed on the wharf over two days.

Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance said the two new gangways will improve the terminal’s efficiency.

“These new passenger bridges will move over 1,200 people every 30 minutes. The great thing is they increase capacity and speed up boarding and disembarking, making it a much more enjoyable experience for the hundreds of thousands of passengers welcomed at the Overseas Passenger Terminal every year,” Mr Constance said.

Following a period of testing and commissioning, the new gangways will be operational in time for the 2019/20 cruise season.

The installation of the new gangways builds on the NSW Government’s significant investments in Sydney’s cruise terminal facilities to ensure the city is the leading cruise tourism destination in Australia.

Over 1.6 million cruise passengers transit through Sydney’s two cruise terminals: the Overseas Passenger Terminal and White Bay Cruise Terminal, making New South Wales the home of cruise in Australia.

The 300-plus cruise ships visiting New South Wales each year generate $2.75 billion for the state’s economy, support almost 10,000 jobs and generate $800 million in wages.

Breakthrough in finding a car park in the CBD

In an Australian first, motorists can now access new digital parking technology that guides them to available parking spaces within the Newcastle CBD.

The Find & Park function is the latest addition to City of Newcastle’s popular EasyPark app, which allows users to pay for parking and top up any additional time needed, remotely, using just their smart phone.

Find & Park has helped revolutionise parking in several European cities, and now Newcastle has been selected as the first city in Australia.

Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen said Find & Park was a game changer for parking in the city and would build on the success of the EasyPark app, which has now surpassed cash payments as the second most popular way to pay for parking behind credit card transactions.

“Find & Park takes the stress out of driving by providing motorists with clear, concise information on where best to find a park,” he said.

“It is an incredibly intelligent form of technology that has been adopted by some of the world’s smartest and most technologically savvy cities, such as Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, Rome, Milan and Barcelona.”

Find-Park.jpgTo use Find & Park, motorists just need to open the EasyPark app and click ‘Find’, then enter their destination.

An in-built map then guides them to the best parking area which is closest to their destination.

The Find & Park map provides motorists with colour-coded ‘easy’, ‘moderate’ or ‘difficult’ options for on-street parking closest to their destination.

Data collected from a survey of parking spaces available in the city across a six-week period will initially inform the app, which will be refined and improved with the parking data generated by users.

Cr Clausen said the new Park and Find function would play a major role in easing congestion caused by motorists searching for parks.

“Information provided by EasyPark shows about 30 per cent of traffic in congested European cities, where the technology originates, is caused by people searching for parking,” he said.

“The technology will allow motorists to make better informed parking decisions, just like red and green parking indicators have done for drivers accessing car parks at major shopping centres in Newcastle and elsewhere.”

Currently, the Find & Park service is only available within the Newcastle CBD. City of Newcastle is currently working on expanding the footprint to other parts of the LGA.

Last month, City of Newcastle recorded 45,517 EasyPark transactions, close to 8,000 more than the 37,528 transactions recorded for cash payments.

The popularity of digital payments has been attributed to the City’s 25 per cent discount on parking rates introduced in January and extended to the end of 2019.

Separately, free parking at the mall parking station on Saturdays has also been extended until the end of 2019 to help free up on-street parking in the CBD.

The EasyPark app can be downloaded via the Apple app store by typing EasyPark or at Google Play for Android users. Just look for the bright pink square with the white ‘e’ in it

Motorists can also call EasyPark on 1300 734 070 for assistance with the app.

Drivers are reminded to adhere to NSW laws governing correct phone use while driving, such as using a fixed phone cradle only to make and take calls. For further information on this, visit https://roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/stayingsafe/mobilephones/know-the-rules.html

Greens call for urgent Australian Government action in the face of cultural genocide of Uighur people

Following Four Corners last night, which showed families being torn apart by the Chinese Government’s mass incarceration of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, leader of the Australian Greens Richard Di Natale called for the Australian Government to take urgent action.

Di Natale said: “We are seeing the Chinese Government commit cultural genocide against the Uighur people.  More than one million people have been rounded up and put in massive internment camps.  The mass surveillance in Xinjiang is frightening, as is the forced labour and restrictions on free movement.

“The Australian Government must call this out for what it is, and impose targeted sanctions such as travel bans against Chinese Government officials and entities credibly alleged to be responsible for these serious human rights violations.”

“It’s devastating to hear the stories of Australians and their families, like Sadam Abudusalamu, who have been victims of these human rights abuses. Those who spoke out on Four Corners last night showed incredible bravery. The Australian Government must demand the release of Australian citizens, and any relatives of Australian citizens, who are in arbitrary detention.”

“The Greens welcome the fact that last week Australia added its name to a joint statement urging China to end its mass arbitrary detentions in Xinjiang and allow access for UN and independent international observers, but more must be done.”

STAR WARS COMES TO SYDNEY AS ILM COMMITS TO PERMANENT STUDIO

More than 500 local jobs will be created when Disney-owned visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) sets up a new studio in Sydney, establishing NSW as a global destination for post, digital and visual effects (PDV).

Premier Gladys Berejiklian joined Executive Creative Director and Head of ILM Rob Bredow and ILM Executive Luke Hetherington at Fox Studios Australia today to make the announcement.

Ms Berejiklian said ILM’s decision to choose NSW as its Australian base is a big win for the State.

“ILM is responsible for the visual effects of more than 350 feature films, including Star Wars, Aladdin, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Avengers,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Having the world’s leading visual effects company now agreeing to set up here permanently and commit to teaching invaluable skills to hundreds of people in NSW is a big coup for our State. This is only the third studio ILM has opened outside of North America.

“The digital skills taught by the best in the world will also benefit many other industries in NSW, including software development, robotics, engineering and defence.”

Mr Bredow and Mr Hetherington confirmed that recruitment will begin immediately to complete post, digital and visual effects for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Mr Bredow said Sydney is an ideal location for ILM’s fifth studio.

“There is abundant artistic and technical talent in the region which are both keys to ILM’s culture of innovation. It’s particularly exciting that the first film our new studio will contribute to will be Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” Mr Bredow said.

The announcement follows the NSW Government’s recent move to offer a 10 per cent tax incentive for PDV firms investing over $500,000 in NSW. This is on top of Federal incentives, making NSW an even more attractive location for film production.

The new incentive brings NSW in line with global locations such as the US, UK and Canada, in addition to competing States.

As part of today’s announcement, the NSW Government will also provide a $6 million contribution which will be matched by ILM to establish training programs to build specialised PDV skills for local workers.

Minister for Jobs and Investment Stuart Ayres said PDV is a $15 billion global industry and one that offers highly skilled jobs for NSW.

“We have a shortage of skilled PDV workers in NSW and today’s announcement will help us attract crew who have relocated, as well as drive new teams that will go through ILM’s exciting JEDI Academy program amongst other learning opportunities,” Mr Ayres said.

Minister for the Arts Don Harwin welcomed ILM to Sydney and said he was excited about all of the opportunities that this will open up for NSW.

“Securing ILM’s setup in Sydney will deliver an estimated $333 million in post-production business in the first five years and an expected $100 million each year after,” Mr Harwin said. “We are thrilled to be the home of their new studio.”

Mr Hetherington will see his role expand to include the new ILM studio, which will set up initially at Fox Studios Australia as the company researches options for their permanent Sydney studio.

Cuts to deeming rates a cash boost for about 1 million Australians

About 1 million Australians will benefit from a $600 million boost across the next four years following the Morrison Government’s decision to cut deeming rates.

Minister for Families and Social Services Senator Anne Ruston said the changes would benefit about 630,000 age pensioners and almost 350,000 people receiving other payments.

“The lower deeming rate will decrease from 1.75 per cent to 1.0 per cent for financial investments up to $51,800 for single pensioners and $86,200 for pensioner couples. The upper deeming rate will be cut from 3.25 per cent to 3.0 per cent for balances over these amounts,” Minister Ruston said.

“It will mean more money in the pockets of older Australians. Under the new rates age pensioners whose income is assessed using deeming will receive up to $40.50 a fortnight for couples, $1053 extra a year, and $31 a fortnight for singles, $804 a year.”

The extra money will start flowing through into peoples bank accounts from the end of September in line with the regular indexation of the pension and will be backdated to July 1.

“The decision shows the Morrison Government has listened to and acted on the concerns expressed by older Australians who receive a part pension,” Minister Ruston said.

“While 75 per cent of aged pensioners are not affected by deeming this decision recognises that it is an important issue for those who are.”

“Changes to the deeming rate will also benefit people receiving other income tested payments including the Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment, and income support allowances and supplements such as the Parenting Payment and Newstart.”

“As Minister I made it a priority to be thoroughly informed on this issue to make sure that any decision made on deeming rates was appropriate and reflected the current returns on financial investments.”

A STEP FORWARD FOR SYDNEY GATEWAY

With the new M4 tunnels open to traffic for barely 36 hours, the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government is not wasting any time in continuing to build Sydney’s motorway network, with expressions of interest now open for the Sydney Gateway project.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Sydney Gateway, the next piece of city-shaping infrastructure, would make access to Sydney Airport and Port Botany quicker and easier –together with WestConnex, saving up to 40 minutes from Parramatta to the airport.

“The delivery of the toll-free Sydney Gateway will be a massive improvement to the way motorists travel to Sydney Airport, and take around 10,000 heavy vehicles off local streets in Mascot every day as they travel to Port Botany,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Minister for Roads Andrew Constance said Sydney Gateway would provide a new alternative route to the domestic and international airport terminals from the Sydney motorway network at St Peters interchange.

“Sydney Gateway will include a dedicated flyover to the front door of the domestic airport terminal and improve connections towards Port Botany,” Mr Constance said.

“There will be further time savings from Parramatta, Dee Why, Moorebank and Campbelltown, and provide relief to Southern Cross Drive, King Georges Road and the M5 East tunnel.”

Mr Constance said the successful private sector bidder chosen through the expressions of interest process would construct Sydney Gateway, but it would be toll-free.

Sydney Gateway will save up to 40 minutes on a trip from Parramatta to the domestic terminal, 30 minutes from Haberfield, 22 minutes from Bankstown or Campbelltown, and 19 minutes from Rozelle.

It will save up to 36 minutes on a trip from Eastern Creek to Port Botany, 30 minutes from Silverwater, and 20 minutes from Moorebank or Wetherill Park.

NEW M4 TUNNELS OFFICIALLY OPENED

The new M4 Tunnels have been officially opened and the first drivers will make their way through the 5.5 kilometre tunnels from Homebush to Haberfield early tomorrow morning.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Minister for Roads Andrew Constance have cut the ribbon on the $3.8 billion project, which will allow drivers to bypass the notoriously congested Parramatta Road.

“These twin tunnels give drivers the option to avoid 22 sets of traffic lights, slashing up to 20 minutes off a trip from Parramatta to the Sydney CBD,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“This is a major step towards giving back more time to people, so they spend less time in traffic and more time with family and friends, as well as doing the things they love.

Mr McCormack said the opening of new M4 tunnels was another important step in the WestConnex project.

“These tunnels are a game changer for the people of western Sydney, doubling the capacity of the corridor between Homebush and Haberfield,” Mr McCormack said.

“We know congestion in our cities is a real problem and the Australian Government is doing everything it can to fix it through our record $100 billion pipeline of infrastructure projects over the next decade.”

Mr Constance said there will always be a toll free option for drivers and the new M4 Tunnels are expected to reduce the overall traffic volume on the existing Parramatta Road by more than 50 per cent.

“Within two years it is expected there will be about 67,000 trips a day through the tunnels, taking traffic off local streets,” Mr Constance said.

“The new M4 Tunnels are the first of four major WestConnex tunnels. When WestConnex is finished in 2023, drivers will save an estimated 40 minutes on a trip from Parramatta to Sydney Airport.”

The Eastbound tunnel is expected to open from 2am on Saturday, followed by the Westbound tunnel about an hour later.

Australia’s VET system set to shape our future workforce

The Morrison Government’s renewed commitment to the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector will make it central to shaping Australia’s workforce for the future.

Speaking at the 28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference today, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash, said she would lift the profile of Australia’s VET sector and aim to make it the first choice in post-school learning for millions of Australians.

“It is a valuable career choice for many Australians and should not be seen as being something less important than a university degree,” Minister Cash said

More than 4 million people undertook vocational education and training in 2017. At the end of last year, there were more than a quarter of a million apprentices and trainees.

“We know that people with VET qualifications are highly regarded and sought after by employers, but we need more people to choose VET as their path to success,” Minister Cash said.

“The Morrison Government already has in place a number of programs and tools designed to increase the profile of the sector and encourage more Australians to choose a VET qualification.

“These programs will be especially important because, as our economy evolves and our workforce changes, VET will be the way we train and re-train the workforce of the future.

Minister Cash also delivered a message to education providers of the VET sector that more cooperation with industry was required to create better outcomes for students.

“Employers look to vocationally trained workers because of their suitability in skills and experience. Australia’s VET system must better connect with industry, respond to community needs, and have clear, consistent funding.

And with the growth in the VET sector, Minister Cash said there was always room for improvements.

“The sector still bears some of the scars of Labor’s mismanagement of bad student loans, underfunded courses, quality issues and the diminishing of TAFE.

“It is this Government’s promise to continue the hard work of reforming the sector, providing better quality courses, and better outcomes for trainees and employers.”

The Australian Government’s $525 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package announced in the April Budget will also ensure that the sector can help supply Australia’s future workforce.

The package provides every Australian with the opportunity to grow the skills needed to succeed in an evolving workforce and, concurrently offers employers a pipeline of qualified workers they need to grow and prosper.

Minister Cash said the package reflects the Morrison Government’s commitment to growing the number of new apprenticeships.

“Under our landmark skills package, up to 80,000 additional apprenticeships will be created over the next five years in priority skill shortage areas, assisted by new apprenticeship incentives. Youth unemployment will be targeted with an offering of 400 scholarships in regional Australia to the value of $8 million.

“The Government is committed to creating more than 1.25 million jobs over the next five years and I’m confident that more and more of the people filling these positions will be coming to employers through the VET system,” Minister Cash said.

Medical histories key to Stockton death inquiries

Police will be reviewing the medical histories of a husband and wife whose bodies were found at Stockton today.

About 6am (Friday 12 July 2019), emergency services were called to a home in Newcastle Street after concerns were raised for the welfare of the occupants.

Once inside, police found the body of a 75-year-old woman.

A short time later, emergency services retrieved the body of a 76–year-old man from the surf at Stockton Beach.

Crime scenes were established at both locations, which are being examined by specialist forensic officers.

Newcastle City detectives have commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding their deaths. Initial inquiries suggest no third parties are being sought.

Detectives will await the outcome of post mortem examinations to determine the direction of further inquiries.

NEW M4 TUNNELS TO OPEN THIS WEEKEND

The new M4 Tunnels will open from Saturday morning, slashing travel times for tens of thousands of Western Sydney drivers who currently sit in traffic on Parramatta Road every day.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the new M4 Tunnels will bypass 22 sets of traffic lights from Homebush to Haberfield and cut up to 20 minutes off a trip from Parramatta to the Sydney CBD.

“We are now just days away from drivers benefiting from the first underground section of WestConnex,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“This is yet another major project which will allow people to spend less time in traffic and more time doing what they want.”

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure the Hon Alan Tudge said the M4 Tunnels are the first of four tunnel pieces in the WestConnex puzzle.

“This gamechanging project will help bust Sydney’s congestion, cutting travel times and return local streets to locals,” Mr Tudge said.

Minister for Roads Andrew Constance said within two years it is expected about 67,000 trips will be made through the new M4 Tunnels each day.

“WestConnex will take up to 10,000 trucks a day off Parramatta Road, which is welcome news for anyone who sits in bumper to bumper traffic on that notoriously congested corridor,” Mr Constance said.

“I would like to thank communities for their patience throughout construction over the past three years.”

The $3.8 billion 5.5 kilometre twin tunnels will be three lanes in each direction and extend the widened M4 from Homebush to Haberfield. It is expected to reduce the overall traffic volume on Parramatta Road by 53 per cent by 2021.

The WestConnex project also includes the New M5, the M4-M5 Link and the Rozelle Interchange, connecting Sydney’s west and southwest via more than 30km of continuous motorway.