Morrison’s new laws must not undermine anti-discrimination protections

A Religious Discrimination Act should not be used to undermine or override state based anti-discrimination laws, the Australian Greens say, following the release of the government’s response to the Ruddock Review.

Greens Justice spokesperson Senator Nick McKim said: “Religious freedom cannot be viewed in isolation, nor should it be used as a political weapon in an act of vengeance for the marriage equality vote.”

“Attorney-General Christian Porter has made it clear today he intends to override strong, state-based anti-discrimination laws which protect people from harm – this cannot be allowed to happen.”

“We need a Charter of Rights to balance the right to religious freedom against other important rights, such as freedom from discrimination.”

Greens LGBTIQ+ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice said: “Scott Morrison’s Religious Discrimination Act must not be a Trojan horse to expand discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, like his proposed discrimination in schools bill.”

“Discriminating against someone because they are LGBTQ+ is not religious freedom, it’s discrimination. Plain and simple.”

“The Prime Minister has already demonstrated he is out of touch with Australians who want discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in schools removed. Freedom of religion is not a licence to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.”

Australian Greens deeply concerned by deterioration of human rights in Bangladesh

The Australian Greens are deeply worried by the deteriorating human rights situation in Bangladesh, in particular the ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly against the media, students, activists and the opposition.

Leader of the Australian Greens Senator Richard Di Natale said problems were only worsening as Bangladesh approaches its general elections on 30 December.

“I have been very concerned by recent reports that the use of torture has become widespread in Bangladesh, and at news of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, politically-motivated detention and the excessive use of force,” Di Natale said.

“Members of the Bangladeshi community in Australia have told me that they are extremely worried about the situation in their homeland, and have little faith that the upcoming elections will be free and fair.  I have received a petition with nearly 800 signatures expressing their deep concern.

“In the lead-up to Bangladesh’s election later this month, I urge the Australian Government to join the Greens and local community members in publicly calling for free and fair elections in Bangladesh, so that people can fully exercise their democratic rights”.

M1 truck crash – Brooklyn

A truck driver has been taken to hospital following a crash north of Sydney early this morning.

The crash happened just after 1am (Friday 14 December 2018), when a B-double truck travelling northbound on the M1, south of the Hawkesbury River Bridge, Brooklyn, hit the dividing rock wall rapturing the fuel tank.

The truck driver, a 46-year-old man was taken to Gosford Hospital in a stable condition.

An operation is now underway to unload the truck before it can be removed.

Significant traffic delays are expected with lane three northbound of the M1 remaining closed.

For the latest traffic information visit www.livetraffic.com.

Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.

City hails first five-star hotel

A landmark deal inked this morning will see the City’s current administrative headquarters transformed into a stunning five-star hotel to be known as the Kingsley.

Overlooking Civic Park, the harbour and Merewether from its upper floors, the Kingsley marks a historic moment in the City’s revitalisation, providing the heartbeat that has always been missing from the local tourism industry.

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Purchased by the hospitality group Crystalbrook Collection, the five-star hotel will feature 136 luxury rooms, lobby bar, café with outdoor terrace and a new roof top with restaurant, swimming pool and gymnasium.

Construction and fit out of the new hotel will begin as soon as City of Newcastle staff relocate to their new office on the corner of Hunter Street and Stewart Avenue in the new CBD that is Newcastle West. Crystalbrook Collection expect the Kingsley to be operating by November 2020, in time for the Newcastle 500 and the tens of thousands of visitors it will attract to the city.

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Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes hailed the landmark deal as a turning point in Newcastle’s history.

“Great cities around the world provide truly great accommodation. And the mark of a great hotel is one done to a five-star standard. Crystalbrook’s decision to invest in Newcastle, when they could have invested anywhere in Australia, says so much about our city and how we are viewed by those living interstate and overseas.

“The location of the Kingsley will overnight reinvent the Civic Precinct. Guest staying in the luxury hotel will now be within just 100 metres walk of the Civic Theatre, The Newcastle Art Gallery, The Newcastle Museum and the Civic Playhouse. The existence of a five-star hotel complete with a light rail station immediately across from it, will finally create the thriving cultural precinct our city has longed for,” the Lord Mayor said.

“I applaud Crystalbrook’s vision in re-imagining the CAC’s brutalist architecture. Reviewing their plans and renders, their vision for the building is an ideal adaptive reuse. In the space of less than two years, Newcastle will have a building that is both iconic and luxurious.

“Today’s sale is also a win for tourism, the University’s inner-city expansion plans, and the neighboring justice precinct and nearby Darby Street businesses,” the Lord mayor said.

City of Newcastle CEO Jeremy Bath said the sale would generate new investment momentum.

“Following the expression of interest process that involved two separate rounds, we have delivered for ratepayers an exceptional result. Indeed, we have delivered the best of both worlds, a financial sale well beyond our valuation of the building which will also generate a significant number of jobs,” Mr Bath said.

“Just as the hotel will boost the Civic and Honeysuckle, the exodus of bureaucrats to the West End in August will lend impetus to plans to make it the new CBD, next to the Newcastle Interchange.

“As part of associated plans, Birdwood Park and Parry Street West will be overhauled as Newcastle’s new civic centre and Wickham will be overhauled as part of a detailed Masterplan by the City,” he said.

Crystalbrook Collection CEO Mark Davie said he was thrilled to partner with the City on the historic project.

“There’s really nothing like this building, it has a strong identity and connection to the city of Newcastle. I see a lot of potential,” Mr Davie said.

“We think the location, with the City Hall, the Civic Theatre, the Art Gallery and the War Memorial Cultural Centre right on the doorstep, makes it a perfect location for a five-star hotel.”

Mr Davie said he had been watching Newcastle’s growth in recent years and felt strongly that Crystalbrook Collection should become a contributor to its future economic success.

The name Kingsley follows a naming convention by which Crystalbrook gives each of its hotels a gender-neutral name and its own unique personality.

Kingsley is also an historical allusion to the City’s early name of ‘Kingstown’, which dates back to 1804.

Funding competition to create more vibrant city

The City of Newcastle resolved last night to make business improvement associations (BIAs) compete in a free market of ideas to generate more events and initiatives of a higher standard throughout the city.

An annual contestable process for a yet-to-be determined percentage of the $1.345 million in commercial ratepayer funding will replace existing agreements with four BIAs and New Lambton Village following the decision to end the current funding model, which was recommended by consultants AECOM.

Newcastle Business Improvement Association (Newcastle Now), Hamilton Business Improvement Association, and Mayfield Business Improvement Association, Wallsend Business Improvement Association will compete with other organisations under the new model for some of the funding currently exclusively available to them.

The new framework will ensure funding is directed to events, local projects and small infrastructure such as parks improvements from 1 July 2019 and not spent on consultants, employees and administration costs.

“Under the new model, BIAs will not be able to request funds from the City of Newcastle for administrative costs and staff salaries. It’s clear from a review of the BIAs that many millions of dollars have been spent on administration that should have gone into the delivery of on-the -ground events,” City of Newcastle CEO Jeremy Bath said.

“Four of the five BIAs have this year requested Council funding and collectively propose to spend 46 per cent of their ratepayer funds on administration and salaries.

“From July next year, BIAs will compete for a percentage of the funds with any number of other groups who have compelling ideas for events and initiatives. These events will need to benefit the local business area that is paying the special rate. This change will improve the quality of events and projects that commercial ratepayers’ money is spent on. It will encourage fresh, dynamic ideas for how we drive better visitation and spend in our local business areas.

“The City needs more events, and more focus on tourism and economic development. BIAs can play a critical role in achieving this. Wallsend and Hamilton BIAs have done an outstanding job cultivating events that draw large numbers and, going forward, successful events like the Wallsend Winter Fair, Hamilton Carnivale and China Week will be able to apply for funding in three-year blocks to give them certainty.”

In August, CN engaged independent firm Centium to investigate compliance with the Deed of Agreement with Newcastle Now following serious governance concerns.

The report found payments made by the City had not been supported by business plans submitted by Newcastle Now, that it had failed to meet standards of acquittal for projects since 2016 and inappropriately used the special rate levy funds for projects.

The Centium report was prompted by the discovery that around $7 million had been paid since 2012 to Newcastle Now without an approved business plan, a requirement stipulated in the association’s funding agreement signed by its then and current Chair Edward Duc in November 2011.

The AECOM report found that the governance arrangements for BIAs required significant improvement after Newcastle Now spent at least 43 per cent of its funding on administrative costs and salaries every year over the past five years.

“In 2016, this figure exceeded $600,000 out of total funding of $1,161,596,” Mr Bath said.
“In 2017, 56 per cent of Newcastle Now’s funding was diverted to administration and salaries, a record percentage.

“It should be noted that this spending occurred before their current Executive Manager commenced in May this year.

“Every dollar that is spent on administration and salaries is a dollar that isn’t going towards on-the-ground delivery of events and programs that attract people to local shops and businesses.

“AECOM recommends that administration expenses instead be managed by a single independent third party on behalf of all five BIAs. Through economies of scale, this will ensure an estimated half a million dollars more is invested into local business areas in the form of events and programs rather than in red tape and bureaucracy”, Mr Bath said.

Collected by the City, BIA funding is made available from a special rate paid by commercial ratepayers to fund additional promotion and marketing of their local business area.

Australian Space Agency to Adelaide

Australia’s Space Agency will be located in Adelaide, reinforcing South Australia’s long-standing contribution to the nation’s space journey.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said South Australia was a key hub for innovation and the technology industry, making it the ideal home for the new Agency.

“Australia’s space industry is set to hit new heights,” the Prime Minister said.

“This Agency is going to open doors for local businesses and Australian access to the US$345 billion global space industry.

“Our government’s $41 million investment into the Agency will act as a launching pad to triple Australia’s space economy to $12 billion and create up to 20,000 jobs by 203 0.

“This Agency is part of our plan for a stronger economy for South Australia and the country which is about delivering long-term, high-wage, high-skills jobs.”

The Agency, to be located at Lot Fourteen at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site, is also key to the new Adelaide City Deal, with a Memorandum of Understanding signed today by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and South Australian Premier Steven Marshall, aimed at turbo-charging Adelaide’s economy and driving long term investment in the city.

Premier Marshall said long-term investment in Adelaide and its space sector would drive entrepreneurship and innovation while enhancing the city’s liveability.

“South Australia is the ideal location for the Australian Space Agency with a range of local space industry businesses already established here as well as a rapidly growing defence industry sector.

“Establishing the headquarters of the Austr alian Space Agency in South Australia will launch our space and defence sectors to the next level.

“I look forward to working with the Federal Government, industry and our education sector to capitalise on this incredible opportunity for our state.”

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said Adelaide was selected to host the Agency after putting forward the strongest case.

“South Australia is already home to more than 60 organisations and 800 employees in the space sector and this decision builds on the very strong technology and defence presence in the state,” Minister Andrews said.

“Australia’s science, research and technology sectors are key in improving the competitiveness of Australian businesses – and only under our government’s strategic and strong economic management can these flourishing sectors continue to expand.

“We are committed to growing Australia’s space sector, and our Government is also investing $260 million to develop world leading satellite capabilities, and to significantly increase GPS accuracy in our cities and regional areas.”

Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population Alan Tudge said the redevelopment of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital will harness Adelaide’s greatest strengths – its cultural depth, research excellence and commercial potential.

“The Agency location and the Adelaide City Deal will align to allow better management of population growth and city planning,” Minister Tudge said.

“This will ensure jobs, infrastructure, services and public spaces are in place to create a faster-growing, productive and liveable Adelaide.”

“City Deals are about all three levels of government working together to drive the local economy and we are already see many cities benefitting from these deals including Darwin, Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney.”

The Australian Space Agency will be located in Adelaide by mid-2019 and is set to employ 20 full-time equivalent staff in Adelaide.

Additional information about the Agency can be found at www.space.gov.au. More information on the City Deal is available at https://citydeals.infrastructure.gov.au.

$1.25 BILLION TO IMPROVE THE HEALTH AND CARE OF AUSTRALIAN PATIENTS

The Liberal and Nationals’ Government will improve the health and care of patients right around Australia with a guaranteed $1.25 billion boost to health services.

This will provide more doctors, more nurses and more services in every state and territory.

This is the tangible benefit of strong economy and it’s why we are so committed to keeping our economy strong.

The $1.25 billion Community Health and Hospitals Program will fund projects and services in every state and territory, supporting patient care while reducing pressure on community and hospital services.

Under the program, our Government will partner with communities, states and territories, health and hospital services and research institutions to provide additional funding in four key areas:

  • Specialist hospital services such as cancer treatment, rural health and hospital infrastructure
  • Drug and alcohol treatment
  • Preventive, primary and chronic disease management
  • Mental health

The new program will complement our record investment in public hospitals.

Our funding for public hospitals will more than double from $13.3 billion in 2012–13 to $28.7 billion in 2024–25.

This is record public hospital funding delivering more doctors, more nurses and more services.

Our new five year National Health Reform Agreement will deliver more than $30 billion in additional public hospital funding from 2020–21 to 2024–25, taking overall funding during this period to $130.2 billion.

Three Liberal and three Labor state and territories have already signed up to the new agreement, accessing record funding.

A strong economy enables the Liberal and Nationals’ Government to invest in even more doctors, nurses and public hospital services – benefiting patients across Australia.

This is further supported by our record investment in Medicare, provision of medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to make them affordable for patients, and the breakthrough medical science occurring through the Medical Research Future Fund.

CENTRELINK CUTS HURTING NOVOCASTRIANS

Novocastrians are bearing the brunt of ongoing cuts at Centrelink, with many being forced to wait for up to six months for applications for pensions or income support to be processed.

Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon said the number of Novocastrians contacting her for help after going months without income was distressing.

“My office takes too many calls from desperate constituents forced to live on nothing and navigate a system that seems rigged to demoralise and delay,” Ms Claydon said.

“With well over 35,000 Novocastrians on income support or pensions, the impact of these cuts has been felt widely across our community.

“Staff morale is also an all-time low with department jobs being cut and outsourced to labour hire firms.”

Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Linda Burney said the Federal Government had cut and outsourced 2,500 Centrelink jobs in the past three years.

“Centrelink is in crisis under the Liberals. It’s under-staffed and under-resourced,” Ms Burney said.

“We have heard shocking stories of people waiting hours to speak to someone on the phone, or waiting months for their allowances or pensions.”

“The only winners of the cuts are labour hire firms who charge the taxpayer more, but pay their staff less.”

Labor has committed to invest in Centrelink’s workforce with 1,200 permanent, full-time, properly trained staff, who are best able to deal with the complex issues facing income support recipients.

Council update: Tuesday 11 December 2018

Following is a summary of the Ordinary Council meeting for Tuesday 11 December 2018.
NB: it is not a full record of resolutions.

Lord Mayoral Minute – City of Newcastle ‘Buy Local’ Procurement Policy
This supported LMM will see the City examine the benefits of purchasing goods, services and works from suppliers/contractors within the Greater Newcastle region and develop a draft policy for Council’s consideration.

Lord Mayoral Minute – Richmond Vale Rail Trail Working Party
A LMM was supported to establish a Richmond Vale Rail Trail Working Party comprising Councillors, Council officers and community members from Newcastle, Cessnock and Lake Macquarie.

Code of Conduct complaints statistics report
The report was received and noted.

Adoption of revised Privacy Management Plan
Council adopted the revised plan.

Adoption of Effective Communication between Councillors and Staff Policy
The policy was adopted.

Report on Review of Advisory Committees and Adoption of Advisory Committee Charters
Council adopted a new advisory committee structure and appointed Councillor members to strategic advisory committees for Infrastructure, Strategy and Innovation, Community and Culture, and Liveable Cities.

Determination of PAYG taxation for Councillors
The motion was carried, however it was required to be unanimous in order for Councillors to be eligible for PAYG tax withholding and superannuation. A substantive foreshadowed motion was instead carried that the City write to Federal and State Ministers and Shadow Ministers for Local Government in support of legislation requiring councillors to be paid compulsory superannuation.

Sanctuary Estate, Fletcher – Adoption of Amendment to Newcastle LEP 2012
Council endorsed the Planning Proposal for forwarding to the Department of Planning and Environment.

Cooks Hill, The Hill and Hamilton South Heritage Conservation Areas boundary adjustments – Endorsement of Amendment to Newcastle LEP 2012
Council endorsed the Planning Proposal for forwarding to the Minister for Planning for gateway determination.

Adoption of Hamilton Residential Precinct Heritage Conservation Area – Amendment to Newcastle LEP 2012
Council endorsed the Planning Proposal to create a Heritage Conservation Area for the Hamilton residential precinct and to forward the proposal to the Department of Planning and Environment.

Temporary suspension of alcohol-free zones for upcoming events 2019
The temporary suspension of alcohol-free zones was approved.

Management of parking within the Local Government Area
Council resolved to authorise the Chief Executive Officer to establish and operate or remove parking schemes as provided under the Road Transport (General) Regulation 2013 within the Newcastle Local Government Area.

Land acquisition – Part 12 Albert Street, Wickham – Roundabout and associated works
Council authorised the acquisition of part of the property at 12 Albert St, Wickham to enable the City to complete a shared pathway and roundabout works on the corner of Railway and Albert Streets.

Notices of Motion (NOM) 

Minimising disruption
A NOM was supported to note the temporary inconvenience caused to residents by the continued unprecedented construction boom underway in the City and to consider opportunities for Newcastle to replicate and build upon reforms for road construction works that have been introduced by the Victorian Government.

Health burden of coal-fired electricity generation in NSW
A NOM was supported to note a report investigating serious health damage caused by NSW’s five coal-fired power stations and to write to the Environment Minister and Shadow Environment Minister to seek commitments for air quality monitoring.

Paris Climate Agreement
A NOM was supported for City of Newcastle to commit formally to the principles and targets of the Paris Climate Agreement and develop a pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the update of the Newcastle 2020 Carbon and Water Management Action Plan.

Library exhibitions showcase the emotional power of photography

Moving snaps of local legend Kurt Fearnley with children in a Palestinian refugee camp and a rare cross-aisle celebration of last year’s marriage equality bill are among scores of stunning photographs on display at Newcastle Region Library until the end of the summer school holidays.

Two exhibitions, Home, Dignity, Justice and the 2018 Nikon-Walkley Press Photography Awards, showcase the power of photographic imagery in communicating human struggle, dignity and joy.

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Newcastle Cr Carol Duncan said it was a pleasure for Newcastle Region Library and the City to present these two exhibitions to the community.

Home, Dignity, Justice is a photographic retrospective of the Australian Human Rights Commission that celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and raises awareness of human rights issues through beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking images,” Cr Duncan said.

“The Nikon-Walkley exhibition shows the biggest news stories of the past year through the lenses of Australia’s best press photographers. Images are included across a wide range of genres, from news and sport to portraiture and photographic essays.”

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Home, Dignity, Justice Exhibition

Home, Dignity, Justice celebrates stories from Australia and around the world in a retrospective exhibition of entries by children and adults to the Human Rights Commission’s photography competitions.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which emerged in response to the horrors of the Second World War, was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948.

The Library’s program of activation events, developed in collaboration with the community, includes author talks, film and discussion forums, and workshops for various age groups with a focus on human rights and encouragement for everyone to #standup4humanrights.

Home Dignity Justice is a community collaboration that supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

2018 Nikon-Walkley Press Photography Exhibition

The biggest stories of the past year seen through the lenses of Australia’s best press photographers are on show in the 2018 Nikon-Walkley Press Photography Exhibition at Wallsend Library.

Highlights include “Linda Burney Airborne” by AAP photographer Lukas Coch, which won the 2018 Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year prize. It captures a moment of celebration after the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill, when Labor MP Linda Burney crossed party lines to be hoisted aloft by Liberal MP Warren Entsch on the floor of Parliament.

Dean Lewins was named the 2018 Nikon-Walkley Press Photographer of the Year at the Walkley Awards on 22 November. His body of work of news and sports images also appears alongside all this year’s Walkley-winning photographs and finalists.

As the highest honour in Australian journalism, the Walkley Awards celebrate excellence across all media.

The Nikon-Walkley Awards for Excellence in Photojournalism recognise the work of photographers across a range of genres – from news and sport to portraiture and photographic essays.

Home, Dignity, Justice Exhibition
Newcastle Library, Lovett Gallery
On until 25 January 2019

2018 Nikon-Walkley Press Photography Exhibition
Wallsend Library
10 December 2018 to 28 January 2019

Image captions:

Top: Inspirational, 2011 by Denise McArthur
Novocastrian Kurt Fearnley, world champion and Paralympian, visited Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in Damascus, Syria.
Featured in the Home, Dignity, Justice Exhibition

Above: Linda Burney Airborne, 2017, by Lukas Coch AAP, Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year
Liberal MP Warren Entsch lifts up Labor MP Linda Burney as they celebrate the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, December 7 2017.
Featured in the 2018 Nikon-Walkley Press Photography Exhibition