ACT Budget 2016: Canberra homeowners set for average rate rise of 4.5 per cent, Andrew Barr says

June 7 2016 – 12:05PM

Katie Burgess

Flag of the Australian Capital Territory

Canberra’s average rate rise will be about half that of the last year’s, Chief Minister Andrew Barr has said ahead of the ACT Budget.

Mr Barr flagged an average rate rise of 4.5 per cent on Tuesday, prior to the delivery of his fifth budget as Treasurer and his second as Chief Minister.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has signalled an average rate rise of 4.5 per cent in Canberra.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has signalled an average rate rise of 4.5 per cent in Canberra. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Some areas could see rate rises as low as 2 per cent, Mr Barr said on ABC radio. Others would be “a little above” 4.5 per cent, but he did not say how high the rises would be in these suburbs, or which ones would have higher increases.

Last week, Mr Barr told Fairfax Media rate increases would be “considerably lower” than in the past four years.

The government announced a 9 per cent average rates rise in 2015, from 8 per cent in some suburbs of Belconnen, Woden and Tuggeranong up to almost 13 per cent in areas in the Inner North.

As the October election closes in, the government is expected to deliver a gentler budget than in recent years, marked by a slowdown in the relentless rates increases of recent years.

The budget deficit is also expected to be about half the forecast last year due to more revenue flowing from the Land Development Agency.

Mr Barr tweeted on Tuesday morning the budget would be returned to surplus by 2018-19.

The table indicated the budget would be in deficit by almost $100 million in 2016-17, dropping to about $40 million in 2017-18. The projected surplus in 2018-19 appears to be about $25 million, with a further surplus of about $60 million in 2019-20. He has not provided exact figures.

Come back to canberratimes.com.au at 3pm today to find out how the 2016 ACT Budget affects you.

 

Source : The Canberra Times

Opal-activated bike sheds give options to Sydney commuters

June 6, 2016 – 8:35PM

Matt O’Sullivan

Transport Reporter

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Build them and they will come – by bicycle.

That is the hope for the first of more than 40 Opal-activated bike sheds to be built at train stations in Sydney and areas further afield over the next three years.

And for Matt Hearn, from Prospect in Sydney’s west, the opening of a new covered and secure bike shed at Blacktown Station is not before time.

Prospect resident Matt Hearn says the new covered bike shed at Blacktown Station is like Fort Knox.

Prospect resident Matt Hearn says the new covered bike shed at Blacktown Station is like Fort Knox. Photo: Louise Kennerley

His bike was stolen last year, and he only recently replaced it.

“This thing is rock solid – that is Fort Knox right there,” he said, pointing at the new shed where he now locks up his bike before taking a bus to work at Wetherill Park.

Cycling to a station to catch a train or bus is an option the state government is eager for local residents to consider, instead of them facing a daily hunt for car parks.

At Blacktown Station, the nearby car parks are full by about 7.30am on most weekdays.

Motorists who miss claiming a spot for the day often need to drive to the next station on the Western Line at Seven Hills in the hope of finding a parking spot.

Opened two weeks ago, the shed at Blacktown has room for 30 bikes and is free. Another was opened at Woy Woy on the Central Coast last month.

The next stations to gain bike sheds over the next year will be those at Campbelltown, Liverpool, Gosford, Hornsby, Parramatta, Penrith and Redfern.

To use the sheds, cyclists need to link their Opal cards through Transport for NSW’s bike lockers website.  They can then swipe their cards to enter and leave without charge.

So far, the take up at Blacktown has been slow. Only two bicycles were in the shed last Thursday.

However, duty station manager Mark Rabbat said he expected the shed to be better used as more people became aware it was there, and especially in summer when the weather was more favourable for cycling.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the government wanted to encourage more people to cycle in order to help ease demand for car parking.

“Riding can definitely be more attractive and convenient when there’s proper storage available at the station,” he said.

Bicycle NSW chief executive Ray Rice said the sheds would encourage more people who lived within 5 kilometres of a station to cycle rather than drive.

“They are really good for people who commute. It is a big step up and a big encouragement for people to ride to the station and hop on a train,” he said.

“There is a huge amount of potential for growth [in cycling]. If facilities are provided, people will use them.”

Mr Rice said providing facilities for 50 bikes at a station was much cheaper and required less space than a car park for 50 vehicles.

The bike sheds are operated on a “first-in, first-served” basis.

Construction is also scheduled to begin next month on a new cycleway from Blacktown Station along George Street to Sunnyholt Road. It is due to be completed by June next year.

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

Scots College asks church for advice on ‘homosexual agenda’

June 6, 2016 – 3:56PM

Eryk Bagshaw

Education Reporter

EXCLUSIVE

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Sydney’s most expensive private school has asked the Presbyterian Church for advice on what it describes as the “homosexual agenda”, in the event that a same-sex couple wanted to enrol their child at the school.

The Scots College, which shot to public attention in February after the church removed the school’s entire ruling council, asked the church for guidance at an Emergency General meeting last year.

The Scots College in Bellevue Hill.

The Scots College in Bellevue Hill. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

“The Scots College has requested the Gospel, Society and Culture Committee to prepare a statement on a biblical response to the homosexual agenda and wishes to be able to respond rightly in the event that a same-sex couple might seek to enrol a boy within the College,” the confidential minutes of the meeting in September reveal.

The “homosexual agenda” is a term used by sections of the Christian right, mostly in the US, as a way to describe the normalisation of same-sex relationships.

Under Australia’s sex-discrimination laws, religious schools are legally allowed to reject LGBTI children and the children of same sex couples.

Dr Ian Lambert, (R) Principal of Scots College.

Dr Ian Lambert, (R) Principal of Scots College. Photo: Nick Moir

The issue has been in the spotlight since Conservative MPs demanded Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull scrap the anti-bullying program Safe Schools in March because of its alleged “gay agenda”. At the same time, schools across NSW are increasingly coming to grips with appropriate ways to deal with sexual and gender identity inside and outside the classroom.

In its advice to Scots College, the church condemned same sex relationships.

“Homosexual sex is contrary to God’s law, and so is a sin,” the minutes state. “Christian repentance must include turning aside from a lifestyle which has deliberately embraced a contravention of God’s moral law, including homosexual sex.”

A still from Maya Newell's film Gayby Baby

A still from Maya Newell’s film Gayby Baby Photo: Gayby Baby

But the church adds that families who participate in a homosexual “lifestyle”, need support not rejection.

The principal of the Bellevue Hill institution, Ian Lambert, said that in considering the advice of the church, Scots would not reject a child of a homosexual couple if they wanted to enrol their child at the school which charges parents more than $30,000 a year.

“The College is very aware that issues of sexuality are sensitive and the welfare of students is our utmost concern at all times,” Dr Lambert said.

While offering “salvation” to those who engage in same sex relationships, the Presbyterian Church has long fought against their official recognition.

The church’s former moderator, Mark Powell, successfully led a campaign to ban Gayby Baby, a film about the children of same sex couples, from being shown during class hours in NSW schools.

The film’s director, Maya Newell, has since developed a “school action toolkit” as a blueprint for school leaders wishing to welcome diverse families.

The new resource comes as debate continues to rage around the public funding and implementation of Safe Schools, which was amended to remove “inappropriate content” such as chest binding in March.

A spokeswoman for Safe Schools said reports of situations like this reinforce the importance of the program.

“We support school leadership teams and teachers, including many faith based schools, so they can create safer and more inclusive learning environments responding to the needs of their own school context,” she said.

On Friday, Victoria’s opposition said it would axe the program from its schools if it wins the 2018 state election.

NSW Premier Mike Baird has previously indicated his support for the amended Safe Schools curriculum.

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

Gambling harm report kept under wraps as NSW reaps pokie tax dollars

June 4, 2016

Sean Nicholls

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD STATE POLITICAL EDITOR

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State governments are unlikely to take policy actions that will reduce the flow of gambling taxes.

State governments are unlikely to take policy actions that will reduce the flow of gambling taxes. Photo: Virginia Star

With the NSW Planning Assessment Commission decision on consent for James Packer’s proposed new hotel, casino and apartment tower at Barangaroo imminent, much of the focus has been on the scale of the development.

That’s unsurprising given the displacement of public space and the sheer scale of the building being proposed.

Far less time has been spent focusing on how the new development will increase the NSW government’s reliance on the gambling dollar.

An artist's impression of the latest Barangaroo design.An artist’s impression of the latest Barangaroo design.

If it is approved, Packer’s new “VIP gaming facility” will not feature any poker machines; it was one of the conditions imposed on the new licence when it was legislated by the Parliament.

It will, however, be allowed an unlimited number of so-called “multi-terminal gaming machines” – otherwise known as automatic gambling machines.

These machines – occasionally found in NSW clubs and in the Star casino – are electronic versions of the popular “table games” such as roulette and blackjack.

Gambling experts suspicious of Packer’s long game have previously suggested the concession means it would be easy to switch to pokies by just swapping out one set of electronic terminals for another.

Crown argues that this would take an act of Parliament to achieve, which is true.

But as has been widely reported, Packer’s Macau gambling interests are doing badly thanks to a crackdown on corruption by Chinese government.

If this trend continues, it would not be surprising if the billionaire mounts the argument that he needs the revenue from pokies at some point in the future to keep his hotel resort viable.

But even setting this eventuality aside, Crown is guaranteeing its new development will deliver the NSW government a minimum of $1 billion in taxes in the first 15 years of full operations, including the $100 million licence fee.

That means a minimum of $60 million a year in gambling taxes from the operation will go to the government each year.

However, an economic benefit analysis commissioned by Crown from Allen Consulting states that “gaming taxes from Crown Sydney will be $114 million per annum”, so the figure could be much larger.

To put this in perspective, the 2014-15 budget papers forecast that in 2019 – the year before Packer is permitted to open his casino – the Star will hand over $299 million in gambling tax.

As poker machine policy in NSW has shown, once on the teat of regular gambling taxes, it is very unlikely that increasingly cash-strapped state governments will take policy actions that will reduce the flow.

Against this backdrop it’s interesting to note the difficult path to public release of the Baird government’s most recent report on gambling in NSW.

In 2013 the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing awarded a tender for research into the harm caused by various types of gambling.

The research was to “determine the type of harm likely to be attributed to each gambling product and the effects on the gambler and friends and family”.

“The research should determine the level of risk for harm for each of the gambling products,” it said.

Pokies and automatic gambling machines, horses and dogs, casino table games, lotteries, Keno, sports and non-sports betting would all be considered.

The tender for the work – worth $263,000 – was won by the University of Sydney’s Gambling Treatment Centre on October 23, 2013. According to the tender it was due to be delivered by “mid-2014”.

The university says there was a delay “due to the challenge, experienced by many research studies, of recruiting the required number of suitable participants”.

It was eventually handed to the department in December last year – 18 months late – but delivered nonetheless.

So where is the report? In March, Liquor & Gaming NSW said the research “remains unfinalised and is yet to be considered by the government. No date has been set for its release.”

In her second budget on June 21, Gladys Berejiklian will be unveiling the latest annual takings from gambling in NSW.

According to last year’s forecasts, pokies in pubs will deliver $623 million in tax revenue in 2015-16. The figure for gaming devices in registered clubs is expected to be $741 million.

Which report is likely to surface first: the decision on Packer’s casino resort or the gambling harm research?

Sean Nicholls is state political editor.

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

Queensland Rail warned against signalling system

June 6 2016 – 12:20PM

Tony Moore

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Queensland Rail says it warned the Newman government against installing a signalling system that eventually failed, delaying the opening of a rail link north of Brisbane.

In April 2014, QR was asked for advice on the train signalling system chosen for the Moreton Bay Rail Link between Kippa Ring and Petrie.

It advised against adopting the system, but the former government settled on it two months later.

Labor’s Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe one week ago halted the likely midyear opening of the new $1.1 billion rail line for safety reasons after the signalling system failed.

Queensland Rail says it advised in April 2014 against the signalling system chosen in June 2014 for the new Petrie to ...
Queensland Rail says it advised in April 2014 against the signalling system chosen in June 2014 for the new Petrie to Kippa Ring rail line. Photo: Glenn Hunt GTH

The signalling system chosen for the Kippa Ring to Petrie Rail Line – the Ansaldo MAcroLok system – is clashing with the signalling system used on the rest of the south-east Queensland rail network.

The system cannot handle the number of signalling inquiries needed and “crashed” after three trains passed through the Petrie station.

In April 2014 Queensland Rail told the Department of Transport and Main Roads that it did not believe the system that was ultimately chosen in June 2014 could be installed in time to meet the deadlines of the project.

However, Queensland Rail was advised the system that was adopted by the project team because it was cheaper and any difficulties could be handled by the project team.

“Queensland Rail’s signalling engineers participated in the technical evaluation of the Moreton Bay Rail Link signalling system in April 2014,” QR said in a statement provided on Monday.

“(It) rated Ansaldo’s MAcroLok system lower than the alternatives, due to it not being type approved and Queensland Rail’s lack of confidence in the technology being able to be implemented within the timeframe required for delivery of the project.”

QR said it had “successfully” used another model of the signalling system from the same company – Ansaldo’s MicroLok system – across its SEQ rail network.

The new model was promoted as superior technology, Queensland Rail’s statement reads.

“Ansaldo’s MAcroLok system was presented as new, superior technology to the company’s existing MicroLok system,” the QR statement reads.

“Following a technical and commercial evaluation, Ansaldo’s MAcroLok system was the preferred option due to it being significantly cheaper than the alternatives.”

Queensland Rail again raised its concerns with the new Ansaldo MAcroLok system.

“But was advised that the system was significantly cheaper than the preferred technologies and that the contractor was confident they could overcome Queensland Rail’s concerns,” it said on Monday.

The tender was awarded in June 2014.

The Moreton Bay Rail Link project – the new Kippa Ring to Petrie rail line – is the first major rail project in Queensland that Queensland Rail has not managed, according to Queensland Rail.

Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe is expected to announce early this week who will run an independent inquiry into how and why the “failed” rail signalling system for the Kippa Ring to Petrie train line was chosen.

Mr Hinchliffe put QR back in charge of the rail project last week. The Department of Transport and Main Roads has previously run the project.

Mr Hinchliffe’s announcement of the bungled signalling system last week prompted accusations from both major political parties about the awarding of the contract.

 

Source : Brisbane Times

Federal election 2016: Former Labor MP endorses Greens candidate in LeichardT

June 6 2016 – 11:09PM

Amy Remeikis

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While his former party works to combat the threat growing Greens support poses to Labor’s chances in Griffith and Brisbane, state MP Rob Pyne has publicly endorsed a Greens candidate in his electorate warning the “duopoly should be worried”.

The former Labor turned independent MP has spoken out against Queensland Labor’s continued support of Queensland’s mining industry since leaving the party, and while he has committed to vote with his former parliamentary colleagues on matters of “true labour values”, he has deviated from the party on environmental issues.

He said that is one of the main reasons he has thrown his support behind Kurt Pudniks, The Greens candidate for the seat of Leichardt, currently held by the Coalition’s Warren Entsch, where Labor believes Sharryn Howes has a chance of nabbing the seat herself.

“Cairns is a town in desperate need of attention, and prioritisation, in the federal policy arena,” Mr Pyne said.

“Our current MP has been here too long, and while he swings out on issues, he’s been lacklustre in his performance.

“We’ve been forgotten time and time again.

“Kurt Pudniks, the Greens candidate, is the most exciting thing we’ve seen in federal politics in our region for many years. He’s young. He’s local. He’s dynamic. He’s intelligent. He’s quick on his feet.

“Kurt isn’t afraid to speak out; he’s not a ‘cut out’ candidate, just miming along with what the big bosses tell him to say.

Rob Pyne has received overwhelming support from Deputy Premier Jackie Trad.
Rob Pyne has received overwhelming support from Deputy Premier Jackie Trad. 

“You won’t catch him nodding mindlessly behind the scenes on a media circus interview. He’ll be in the front, driving the conversations. Leading the way.”

Mr Pyne said it was time the major parties began taking note of some of Mr Pudniks’ party’s policies.”The Greens policy seems to be the only one acknowledging climate change, and the fact that Cairns is a low lying city, we need that protection from rising sea levels,” he said.

Kurt Pudniks, Greens candidate for Leichardt
Kurt Pudniks, Greens candidate for Leichardt Photo: Jen Frei

“We are also a city that relies on tourism, and the Greens are leading the charge to protect our reef, and on the side, the industry that drives our local economy. These issues are vital to our survival for our region.

“We all knew the Green wave was coming. Our community is moving to a place where the economic decisions should be underpinned with conscious protection of our natural resources and economy.

“We are longing for leaders that care about our community, and our borders are protected in a way that values human life. The duopoly should be worried.

“Very worried.”I’m endorsing Kurt at this federal election, and I wish him well.”

Mr Pudniks welcomed Mr Pyne’s support.

“It’s great to have Rob’s endorsement as another local standing against the dominance and neglect of the two major parties. I’m proud to stand alongside Rob to protect the Reef and tourism jobs and build a 21st Century economy of high tech manufacturing and clean energy, backed up by a highly skilled workforce,” he said.

The Greens are hoping to seize a second Queensland Senate seat in the double dissolution election, with Andrew Bartlett promising to move to north Queensland if he wins one of Queensland’s 12 seats.

 

Source : Brisbane Times

Cyclists collide, leaving two with head injuries

June 7 2016 – 8:57AM

Amy Mitchell-Whittington

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Two cyclists have been taken to hospital after a bicycle collision in Brisbane on Tuesday.

The riders were travelling  along Sandford Street, St Lucia when they collided with a third cyclist just after 6am.

A three-bike collision in St Lucia has left two riders with head injuries.
A three-bike collision in St Lucia has left two riders with head injuries. Photo: Glen Hunt

Paramedics treated both cyclists for head injuries. One cyclist suffered from concussion while the other reported neck pain.

Both were transported to hospital in a stable condition.

 

Source : Brisbane Times