Bridget McKenzie sports grants bias, rorts deserve scrutiny by the Senate

Greens Senator Janet Rice has slammed Bridget McKenzie’s handling of the sport program, giving $100 million in sport grants to favour Coalition target seats in last year’s federal election, rather than awarding grants based on merit.

Senator Janet Rice, Greens spokesperson for Sport said:

“This looks like a government rort designed to win elections.”

“Senator McKenzie should be ashamed of her actions. To ignore the merit-based assessment of Sports Australia for almost half of the successful applicants, and instead decide to award grants based on political gain, is a clear and unforgivable misuse of taxpayers’ money.”

“Australians expect transparency and accountability from those in power. Senator McKenzie’s decision-making process was completely unsporting, with clubs in safe seats hampered in their chances of winning a grant.”

“We will pursue this in Senate Estimates and will consider seeking the support of the Senate for an inquiry.”

Water and Environment Ministers must meet urgently to deal with mass fish kills and safe drinking water

Reports today of another mass fish kill in NSW caused by ash and sediment from bushfires running into the Macleay River, is the disaster experts had been warning about and needs an urgent response from water ministers, the Greens say.

Greens Spokesperson for Water Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said:

“I wrote to state and federal Water and Environment Ministers yesterday urging them to meet as a matter of urgency to coordinate a joint effort across fire-affected states to ensure safe, clean water supply.

“Today we hear of a 70km long mass fish kill on the NSW mid north coast – this didn’t just happen overnight and the catastrophe isn’t over yet. The Federal Government needs to tell us what they did to mitigate such a disaster and what they are doing to prevent future fish kill events.

“No government can say they weren’t warned. More fish kills, like that seen at Menindee last summer, had already been forecast for this summer due to drought.

“Experts have predicted waterway and catchment contamination because of ash, debris and carcass run off, posing a risk to drinking water and leading to the starvation of oxygen in our rivers and lakes.

“The Murray-Darling Basin Authority reported this week that bushfires burning across the southern Basin will impact water quality in some catchments when the rain finally comes.

“The Federal Government must lead an urgent Water Pollution Action Plan to deal with the immediate water crisis and looming consequences for Australia’s water security.

“Right now we are seeing one ecological disaster after another because of the fires. This is what the Climate Emergency looks like. The Federal Government was warned and failed to adequately prepare. They must not continue to be so complacent when public health and the future of native species is at risk.”

Splash of events for Australia Day

Newcastle will be teeming with green and gold and ringing with the Haka this Australia Day as City of Newcastle hosts and supports a range of fun events and activities around the harbour, beaches and inner city.

Local triathletes and elite international visitors will race alongside Paralympian Lauren Parker from 7am as she defends her 2019 Oceania Paratriathlon title*, an Olympic trial event, before a field of hardy swimmers takes on Stockton Surf Lifesaving Club’s cross-harbour challenge mid-morning.

A Trans-Tasman Youth Touch Football Test series will see Kiwi sides take on our country’s best in a City-backed tournament at No.2 Sportsground while parkour, skateboarding, inflatables and a temporary waterpark make a big splash with the kids on the Foreshore.

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“City of Newcastle has teamed up with several partners to put on a raft of events and activities on Australia Day,” Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“Starting with the paratriathlon and featuring the cross-harbour swim and touch football Tests between Australia and New Zealand, plus a range of fun family-friendly events on the Foreshore, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

“The City has supported the touch football Tests with $20,000 as they will attract thousands of extra visitors and boost the local hospitality industry to the tune of $1.7million over three days. The event will also generate some good-hearted parochial excitement on our national day, so no pressure whatsoever on the Aussie teams.”

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Event details

Citizenship Ceremony – 270 new Australians will take their pledge of allegiance in a citizenship ceremony at Civic Theatre from 9am Sunday 26 January.

Fun in the City – Live Entertainment, food trucks, parkour & skateboard workshops, inflatables and more at Queens Wharf and Foreshore Park from 10am – 2pm Sunday 26 January.

Newcastle Harbour Swim – Roll the arms over for the 24th edition of Stockton Surf Life Saving Club’s Australia Day Harbour Swim in either the 700m single crossing from Stockton to Queens Wharf (10am) or 1,400m double crossing from Queens Wharf (11am) Sunday 26 January.

Oceania Championships for Paratriathlon – an Olympic selection event for elite paratriathletes and also a long, mid and short-format triathlon for the general public and corporate teams. 750m swim in Newcastle Harbour, 20km cycle leg around Nobbys, Newcastle Beach and Foreshore and 5km run around Horseshoe Beach and Pit Lane from 7am to 9.30am Sunday 26 January.

Youth Trans-Tasman Test Series – Best of Three Touch Football Test Match series for six youth divisions – 18 matches of elite international standard touch football at No.2 Sportsground from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 January.

Newcastle Waterworld Central – small format water park hosted by Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation on corner of Scott and Watt Streets until 27 January.

Fort Scratchley Canons Firing 11am, 1pm & 3pm (seven guns at 1pm). Catch re-enactments, vehicle displays and the first discharge in almost 100 years of an historic 80-pound gun following a two-year restoration project by the Fort Scratchley Historical Society.

* Wharf Rd East of Watt St, Nobbys Rd north of Stevenson Place, and Shortland Esp to Zaara St will all be closed from 5.30am to 9.30 am for the Para-triathlon.

PAYMENTS NOW AVAILABLE FOR RFS AND SES VOLUNTEERS WHO HAVE SPENT WEEKS KEEPING COMMUNITIES SAFE

NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and NSW State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers who have spent more than ten days fighting fires and helping with the recovery effort can apply for loss of income payments from today.

Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the community was deeply grateful for each and every volunteer who has sacrificed their time to protect life and property.

“Our volunteers are a treasured resource who have shown tremendous dedication and bravery by helping local communities in trying circumstances,” Mr Littleproud said.

NSW Minister for Emergency Services David Elliott said the payments would go some way to help ease the financial stress for volunteers who have spent weeks on the frontline.

“Primary producers and small businesses are the backbone of many bushfire-affected regions and we want to ensure they don’t need to choose between protecting their communities and protecting their livelihood,” Mr Elliott said.

“We want these payments to get in the hands of dedicated volunteers as quickly and easily as possible, so we’re ensuring red tape and onerous processes don’t get in the way.”

Volunteers who have provided more than ten days service and are self-employed or employees of small or medium-sized businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million will be eligible for $200 per day up to a total of $6000 without evidence of income loss. A maximum payment of $300 per day will be provided with proof of income loss through pay slips or previous tax statements.

Drought-affected primary producers will be able to claim a payment of $200 per day without evidence of income loss. Payments are tax-free and are not means-tested.

“Many large organisations have leave provisions for emergency volunteers which is why this program is designed for volunteers who are self-employed or work for a small or medium-sized business,” Mr Elliott said.

Payments to NSW volunteers will be administered by Service NSW through a convenient and secure process requiring a volunteer membership number and employer’s business name. Most applicants will receive their payment within five days of the application.

For more information, visit a Service NSW Centre, go online to www.service.nsw.gov.au or call 13 77 88.

PREMIER APPOINTS MINISTER FOR DISASTER RECOVERY

The Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro will be the Minister responsible for disaster recovery, leading recovery efforts following the recent bushfires across NSW.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the unprecedented scale of the 2019/20 bushfire season requires additional arrangements to be put in place to ensure impacted communities recover and rebuild as quickly as possible.

“Our emergency services personnel and volunteers have been outstanding in dealing with the bushfire emergency to date but the scale of these bushfires has never been seen before and the recovery process will be unprecedented,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Our Government focus is to get the clean-up underway, ensure residents and businesses receive the support they need and to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed or damaged.”

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said these bushfires have had a devastating impact on families, communities and a number of industries across NSW.

“The people of regional NSW are hurting. The drought is unprecedented and now these fires have devastated communities across the state,” Mr Barilaro said.

“From apple orchards in Bilpin, timber mills in northern and southern NSW, through to tourism operators in the Blue Mountains, Snowy Mountains and the north and south coasts, the impact has spread far and wide.

“Our priority is to support those families, communities and businesses affected, to make sure they have everything they need to recover, rebuild and get back on their feet.”

Minister Elliott will continue to lead the emergency response across New South Wales.

“Unfortunately the bushfire season is far from over. Bushfires continue to burn and some will take months to put out and our focus has to remain on protecting life and property,” Mr Elliott said.

LOCKOUT LAWS REPEALED – GROWING SYDNEY’S NIGHT TIME ECONOMY

Early this morning, Sydney’s “lockout laws” were repealed in the Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct bringing in extended trading hours for venues and bottle shops and a relaxation of after-midnight drink rules, with existing arrangements maintained in the Kings Cross precinct.

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said while the extended trading hours will provide a boost for the night time economy, community safety will always be a focus.

“There’s been a cultural shift in the city’s night life since 2014, and it’s time to look towards a bright, safe, diverse Sydney after dark, by improving liquor laws and enhancing access to arts, entertainment, shopping and sporting activities that are inclusive and family friendly,” Mr Ayres said.

“Sydney is Australia’s only truly global city and can evolve to embrace an economy which is cranking around the clock, particularly now that light rail services have been running for a month.

“Stimulating the 24 hour economy is a joint effort and we’re working with the City of Sydney Council and the Committee for Sydney, as well as NSW Government agencies, council, businesses and the community to get this right.”

Existing arrangements are being maintained in the Kings Cross precinct and will be reviewed next year along with the following changes which came into effect overnight:

  • Remove 1.30am last entry for all venues in the Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct, including those on Oxford Street.
  • Remove restrictions on serving cocktails, shots and drinks in glass after midnight in this precinct.
  • Extend ‘last drinks’ at venues with good records in this precinct by 30 minutes.
  • Extend bottle shop opening hours across NSW until midnight from Monday to Saturday, with 11pm closing on Sunday.
  • Increase small bar patron capacity from 100 to 120 across NSW.

To view the Government’s full response to the Committee’s recommendations, visit this link.

DAM WATER QUALITY NSW GOVERNMENT PRIORITY

The NSW Government is concentrating its efforts on ensuring dam storages critical to Sydney’s water supply are protected from ash and debris, following the recent fires.

Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said WaterNSW has already deployed silt curtains and booms at Warragamba Dam to mitigate the inflow of ash to the system in the event of significant rainfall.
“Our priority is protecting Sydney’s drinking water supplies,” Mrs Pavey said.

“The recent fires threatened significant water infrastructure at Warragamba. While much of the catchment has been affected by fire, work by WaterNSW along with the RFS, helped prevent damage to the infrastructure.”

Following bushfires, water quality impacts are typically triggered by significant rainfall events. Low intensity rain is forecast for the next 7 days which does not pose a risk to water quality as the rainfall is not considered sufficient to wash material into dam storages.

“WaterNSW are on-site at Warragamba deploying silt blankets and floating booms to ensure key water inflow points to the dam storage are safe to access,” Mrs Pavey said.

“Silt curtains and floating barriers help to mitigate the inflow of ash into dams, reducing additional pressure on water treatment plants. WaterNSW has an additional 1,000m of silt curtains in case they are needed in either Nepean or Tallowa Dams.”

Water quality in key metropolitan supply storages, such as Warragamba and Tallowa, are being monitored by highly experienced scientists using sophisticated, real-time technology pioneered by WaterNSW.

“We have worked closely with the RFS to ensure fire retardant chemicals used near Warragamba Dam are appropriate, and that exclusion zones were in place to avoid the use of retardants in close proximity to water where possible,” Mrs Pavey said.

“The NSW Government is also assisting local councils as the utility providers in areas affected by the recent fires by deploying resources to help with the management of their water supplies, including carting water where necessary.”

Teens charged after stabbing – Newcastle

Two teens have been charged after a man was stabbed at Broadmeadow yesterday.

About 4pm (Thursday 16 January 2020), emergency services were called to a laneway between Teralba and Brunker roads following a fight between four males.

Police were told that a 67-year-old man and a 17-year-old youth began arguing before two other youths, also aged 17, arrived on scene.

As the older man was walking away, he was allegedly stabbed in the back.

The three youths fled the scene.

Officers attached to Newcastle City Police District established a crime scene and arrested one teen when he returned to the laneway.

He was taken to Newcastle Police Station where he has been charged with reckless wounding in company.

A second teen was arrested at his home on Park Street in Merewether and has also been charged with reckless wounding in company.

Both were granted bail to appear in a children’s court on Monday 3 February 2020.

Police continue to make inquiries to locate a third teen.

The injured man was taken to John Hunter Hospital where he remains in a stable condition.

Keith Urban Scholarship for The CMAA Academy

The Country Music Association of Australia is delighted to announce that multiple Grammy and ARIA Award winner Keith Urban, has established a scholarship for the CMAA Academy.

The Academy program precedes Australia’s largest music event – the Tamworth Country Music Festival, held each January in the nation’s ‘Country Music Capital’.

The two-week residential skills and career-development program was, and still is, a unique and world-leading initiative which has helped launch the careers of many of our current genre’s stars including Sara Storer, The McClymonts, Travis Collins, Amber Lawrence and The Sunny Cowgirls to name just a few of the 500-plus artists who have graduated since the Academy was established 21 years ago.

The inaugural recipient of the Keith Urban Scholarship is Heath Lancaster, who originally hails from Gladstone, near Kempsey.

“We chose Heath as the first recipient of this special scholarship as he has shown great musical talent and potential as an all-round artist – as a musician, singer and songwriter,” The Academy director Lyn Bowtell said.

“The Academy staff members can see a bright musical future for Heath if he chooses to pursue it as a career.”

Keith’s stellar career began in 1990 when the then 22-year-old won Australia’s premier talent search competition, Star Maker at the Tamworth festival.

Following the 1991 release of his self-titled debut album that produced four charting singles, Keith relocated to Nashville.

The rest, as they say, is history with every possible award – including US Entertainer of The Year (in 2005 and 2018), establishing him as one of the brightest stars in the world’s largest music market and one of our most successful music exports ever.

Many of The Academy graduates have targeted Toyota Star Maker as the first rung on the ladder to success, with fourteen of the past twenty winners of the prestigious title having come through the program.

The program focuses on songwriting, presentation and career/business skills and features guest lectures and mentoring by our leading artists – many of them ex-graduates themselves.

On receiving the news, CMAA President Dobe Newton, who helped establish The Academy said:

“This generosity is typical of the man who has never forgotten the part Tamworth played in launching his stellar career, typified by an unscheduled gig on his Australian tour last year to assist the many thousands of farmers, rural workers and communities affected by drought. The Keith Urban Scholarship will create a lasting legacy and hopefully allow a talented and determined young artist to follow in his footsteps. Thanks mate!”

Man charged over numerous thefts in the Hunter

A man will face court today charged over an alleged armed robbery and multiple stealing offences in the Hunter region.

About midday on Sunday 5 January 2020, a man entered a service station on Mulbring Street, Stanford Merthyr, and allegedly threatened an attendant with a knife before demanding cash and cigarettes.

The attendant refused before the man allegedly fled the scene with a number of other items from the store and without paying for petrol.

Officers from Hunter Valley Police District attended and commenced an investigation.

Following inquiries, on Tuesday 14 January 2020 officers attached to Hunter Valley Police District attended a park in Kurri Kurri for a concern for welfare and arrested a 42-year-old man.

He was taken to Cessnock Police Station before being transported to Maitland Hospital for assessment.

Yesterday (Wednesday 15 January 2020), the man was released and taken to Maitland Police Station, where he was charged with one count of armed robbery, five counts of larceny and three counts of drive whilst disqualified.

Police will allege the 42-year-old was involved in numerous stealing offences in Pelaw Main, Neath, Cessnock, and Weston between June 2019 and January 2020.

The man was refused bail to face Maitland Local Court today (Thursday 16 January 2020).