Ease Sydney Airport curfew and add more flights, says New South Wales

May 24, 2014

Jamie Freed, Jacob Saulwick

Andrew Stoner.

Battle for more flights through Sydney Airport: NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner. Photo: James Brickwood

The NSW government intends lobbying Canberra for more flights through Sydney Airport, potentially in the early morning and late at night.

The airport is restricted to 80 an hour but NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner said he would be “vigorously lobbying” his federal counterparts for change.

The state government wants 85 flights an hour.

This would require rewriting the federal Sydney Airport Demand Management Act, which would raise the ire of people near the flight paths.

Federal laws also aim to prevent certain operations between 11pm and 6am, but Mr Stoner said curfew laws should also become more flexible.

“I will be vigorously lobbying the commonwealth to increase the movement cap during peak periods,” Mr Stoner said at the Tourism & Transport Forum outlook conference in Sydney on Friday. “I’ve had some preliminary discussions with a couple of the relevant ministers. . The early indications are good.”

Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister Warren Truss, however, immediately rejected the idea. “The government has no intention to change the 80 movement cap, the curfew or the protection of regional slots into Sydney Airport,” a spokesman said.

The NSW government first started pushing for more flights at Sydney Airport in late 2012, when it opposed an airport at Badgerys Creek (an approach since changed).

Labor’s Transport Spokesman, Anthony Albanese, said the government did not have a mandate to change cap and curfew laws at Mascot: “What’s more, the constraints at Sydney Airport are both the land transport issues and the size of the airport.”

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

Tony Abbott faces budget revolt

May 24, 2014

Mark Kenny, Matthew Knott, Dan Harrison


Senior government ministers are signalling a willingness to compromise on key budget reforms after a wave of popular unrest, and in the face of entrenched opposition from interest groups and a hostile Senate.

Amid the pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to water down aspects of the budget, speculation has been fuelled that income tax cuts will be announced this term to address disastrous polls and ease the nerves of MPs in marginal seats. Two of the biggest-spending ministers, Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Health Minister Peter Dutton, have signalled negotiations would see some ground given.

The Coalition is bracing for the return of Parliament next week following disastrous post-budget polls and a sales job that has all but run off the rails.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

PM under pressure to compromise: Tony Abbott expected to announce tax cuts to address significant fall in polls. Photo: Jonathan Ng

After a week of hostile talkback radio sessions, and a now infamous prime ministerial ”wink” during a radio interview, a Coalition party-room meeting on Tuesday looms as a potential flashpoint for both Mr Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey.

Mr Pyne said on Friday he was willing to compromise on university reforms to make them law, after Universities Australia called for the government to delay the changes because they had thrown the sector into uncertainty.

Mr Pyne nominated the vexed issue of the HECS interest rate – which would rise under the reforms to up to 6 per cent instead of

Christopher Pyne.

“There is a lot of robust discussion and I’m happy to engage with the university sector about how to make this work”: Education Minister Christopher Pyne. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

being capped at inflation – and the salary threshold when debt repayments kick in as two areas where he is open to negotiation. But he will stare down calls from the sector to delay changes, which include a full deregulation of university fees, saying he will introduce legislation into Parliament this year.

“I want the whole package to pass but I am realistic enough to know not everything will pass the Senate,” Mr Pyne said. “There is a lot of robust discussion and I’m happy to engage with the university sector about how to make this work.”

Opponents have predicted the changes, the subject of noisy protests from students, would to lead to soaring debts for some graduates. It would also affect over 1 million current and former students who enrolled in degrees expecting to pay no real interest.

Health Minister Peter Dutton also signalled he was willing to negotiate with crossbench senators to get the proposed $7 co-payment for Medicare services through Parliament. ”Legislation hasn’t been introduced yet. In due course we’ll have discussions with the independents,” he said.

Disgruntled MPs are set to use Tuesday’s party-room meeting as an opportunity for some plain speaking over the budget strategy, although the absence of senators from the meeting due to estimates committee duties may take some heat out of the occasion.

Backbench MPs and senators contacted by Fairfax Media say that raising the pension age to 70 is perhaps ”the” big issue among the public objections to the budget. A sharp dive in the opinion polls, and some less than silky interview performances by ministers, has further fuelled party-room resentment.

Speaking in Sydney, Mr Abbott acknowledged what has been a rough period for his still young government.

”I know that it’s been an interesting week or so for senior members of the government but this is a good budget and this is a budget which will ultimately be seen as a watershed in the life of our country,” he said.

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

Brisbane’s Riverwalk opening remains a mystery

May 23, 2014 – 6:04PM

Kim Stephens


Brisbane City Council will not reveal when its new and improved Riverwalk will open, despite the project nearing completion.

The city’s inner north pedestrian community is eagerly awaiting the opening of the 900 metre path connecting New Farm Park and Howard Smith Wharves, more than three years after its floating predecessor washed away in the 2011 floods.

In February, deputy mayor Adrian Schrinner said the new $72 million pathway was on track for a mid year opening but council is remaining quiet on the intended opening date.

Brisbane's inner city Riverwalk starts to take shape before its reopening.

Brisbane’s inner city Riverwalk starts to take shape before its reopening. Photo: Scott Beveridge

Brisbane CBD bicycle users group co-convenor Paul French said cyclist numbers in the inner north suburbs of Teneriffe, New Farm and Fortitude Valley had plummeted following the destruction of the original path.

Figures compiled by the council support his observations.

“It’s been a massive hit on cycling levels and also people walking to the city so there’s a lot of anticipation of the reopening of that very important infrastructure,” he said.

“People just flat out stopped cycling and put the bike back in the garage.

“To think people are driving to the city from New Farm when it should be an easy cycle ride.”

Mr French said about 40 members of his cycling group were given a project briefing before it commenced.

“Overwhelmingly, people were super impressed with what was going to be delivered, it is certainly going to be a major improvement on what was there before,” he said.

“I live south of the river and I’ll still be one of the first people on it, I reckon.

“We love giving positive feedback where we can and we would want to put out a positive media statement congratulating council on its work.”

The original, floating Riverwalk lasted just seven years following its 2003 construction but it quickly became a highly utilised piece of city infrastructure.

In February, Cr Schrinner said the path carried an average of 3000 pedestrians and cyclists between New Farm and the CBD each day.

He said it was expected the new structure would be used by even more commuters.

The project has been funded with a combined State and Federal Government contribution of $72 million in flood recovery cash.

Source : The Brisbane Times

A Gotye pop hit enters the prolonged Peter Greste court case in Cairo

May 24, 2014

 David Wroe

National security correspondent

Detained: Australian journalist Peter Greste, who was working for Al Jazeera when he was arrested in Cairo by Egyptian authorities last December.

Detained: Australian journalist Peter Greste, who was working for Al Jazeera when he was arrested in Cairo by Egyptian authorities last December. Photo: AAP

Each time Australian government ministers speak to their Egyptian counterparts about the case of jailed journalist Peter Greste, they are asked to respect the other country’s legal processes.

On Thursday night, those legal processes involved the playing of seemingly irrelevant videos taken from a mobile phone including the Australian singer Gotye’s hit song Somebody That I Used to Know.

Mr Greste himself shouted to reporters in the court that the phone did not even belong to him as prosecutors claimed.

”That whole cellphone that the prosecution says is mine is not mine. It’s all in Arabic,” he said, according to The Guardian. ”I don’t speak Arabic. It has nothing to do with me. The integrity of my evidence is being corrupted and the mislabelling of that phone is the most obvious example of that.”

On Thursday night, Mr Greste’s trial on charges of endangering Egypt’s national security and aiding a ”terrorist organisation” in the banned Muslim Brotherhood was once again adjourned. It was the ninth court hearing since he and two co-workers were arrested in late December. They have been imprisoned throughout the trial, despite pleas for bail.

The court was also played unrelated videos from the BBC and Voice of America, as well as amateur recordings attributed to Mr Greste’s co-defendants, most inaudible, according to The Guardian. Prosecution lawyers had reportedly demanded hundreds of thousands of dollars from the defence for access to the video evidence.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spoke as recently as Tuesday night to her Egyptian counterpart, Nabil Fahmy.

”It was a very frank, blunt discussion and he said he noted my concerns, he noted my views,” Ms Bishop told Fairfax Media. ”He said that he believed that the legal process should be allowed to continue just as Australia would expect our legal processes to be able to continue to their conclusion.

”I expressed our frustration and I expressed the frustration of the Australian people and I said it was not doing anything to enhance international perceptions of Egypt.”

Mr Greste’s parents said on Friday that there appeared to be nothing more the Australian government could do. Lois Greste spoke of ”helplessness and frustration like you would not believe”.

”You cannot help but feel angry about this whole thing … it is so unjust and unfair and we don’t know what the end is going to be.”

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald