Monthly Archives: September 2018

Government must nurture its regional centres

The Coalition government is finally looking to implement serious cities policy after two years of neglect, but once again they’ve forgotten about Newcastle and regional cities.
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A plan leaked to the media in December suggests that $6 billion of annual infrastructure spending would be used to make deals with the states to grow capital cities, and set up authorities to take the politics out of planning.After the Abbott government’s active disregard for cities, this is a relief.

But let’s not get too excited, too soon. Indeed, we have already seen the false start of a Minister for Cities being appointed, but now the position sits vacant again.

It’s great to hear reports cities are back on the agenda, but we must ask ourselves why Malcolm Turnbull’s exciting vision for cities only extends to our major capitals?

The government needs to be thinking outside of the Melbourne and Sydney dynamic.Regional cities, from Cairns to Launceston, and the people who live in them, deserve national attention, with government and infrastructure policy support to cope with expanding population growth and subsequent strain on roads and public transport.

Nowhere is this more important than here in Newcastle.Labor’s Building Better Cities program showed what a difference the involvement of national government can make in enabling the transformation of the Honeysuckle precinct.Similar opportunities are present today. Most notably in relation to High Speed Rail and the development of Newcastle as a Smart City. We can’t afford to waste any more time if we are serious about fulfilling Newcastle’s potential.

Malcolm Turnbull should be very familiar with the capacity of Newcastle to lead transformative change, having listed Marcus Westbury’s tale of Renew Newcastle, Creating Cities, on his summer reading list. Hopefully this poolside reading will inspire the Prime Minister to take seriously the opportunities for regional cities like Newcastle to drive our national economy.

We need a broader vision for all the cities of Australia. We have to think beyond the narrow focus on productivity and look at liveability and sustainability. Our cities are places where we live, as well as work.

This is recognised in Labor’s ten point plan for developing our major cities, regional cities and suburbs. It deserves a response from a government that claims to be interested in urban Australia.

And let’s remember. Labor has long supported separating the infrastructure cycle from the political cycle. In government we recognised this, and put our money where our mouth was through the establishment of Infrastructure Australia.In this regard, it seems what’s described as a radical agenda on the part of the Turnbull government is really taking us back to the future.

This new announcement recognises the damage done by the Abbott government in abolishing the major cities unit and walking away from Labor’s policy record in supporting the concerns of the four in five Australians who live in cities.

Labor recognises the significance of finally having a Prime Minister prepared to talk about urban Australia.And we note this first suggestion of policy engagement as a useful start.But there’s so much more to be done.

If Malcolm Turnbull is serious about placing our cities, including regional cities, at the centre of our national prospects, he should be listening to Labor.

Andrew Giles MP is Chair of Labor’s Cities Taskforce andSharon Claydon MP is Federal Member for Newcastle

Labor’s Cities Taskforce ison January 27.

EXPANDING: The government needs to think outside the Melbourne and Sydney dynamic. Regional cities, and the people who live in them, deserve national attention.

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Alexandra Hills quins start prep at Hilliards

High five: Quintuplets Charlie, Evie, Eireann, Abby and Noah start prep at Hilliard State School on Wednesday. Photo: Cheryl GoodenoughQuintuplets fromAlexandra Hills will spread their wings as they head into prep at Hilliard State School on Wednesday.
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Mum Melissa Keevers has mixed feelings aboutCharlie, Evie, Eireann, Abby and Noah Nolan-Keevers starting ‘big school’.

Shesays although she has some concerns about them embarking on their school journey, she also feels excited.

“Part of me just wants to stop time, but it is also exciting to see them grow and develop their own personalities more and more,” she said.

Ms Keevers said the reality that they are going to school hit her when she got them dressed in their uniforms.

She believes her biggest challenge during this school yearwill be helping the quins and their sister, Lily to do homework.

“I have a house mate who is their god mother who is a help, but it really is just me, my mum and whatever help I can get,” she said.

Lily completed prep last year so the quins have an idea of what school is all about.

“But I am not sure that they fully comprehend what it will be like,” said Ms Keevers.

The family made international headlines when Ms Keevers and her partner at the time, Rosemary Nolan, discovered they were expecting quintuplets.

Having not undergone any hormone-based fertility treatment, the chances of Ms Keevers naturally conceiving quintuplets was less than one in 60 million.

The Nolan-Keeversquins turned fiveon January 3.

​​Theyhavebeen in the same group since starting child careat Gumnuts Kids in Alexandra Hillswhen they were15monthsold.

However, they will be indifferent prep classes at Hilliard State School.

Gumnuts Kids director Kristene Watt said being in different classes for the first time would help the quins to find their own self-identities.

“It will be a big change for them but they are ready for it,” she said.

Ms Watt hasformed a close relationship with the quinsover the lastthree and a half years.

“I have seen them at different ages facing different challenges and it has been very exciting,” she said.

“They started here when they couldn’t walk and are now five-year-olds ready for school.”

Ms Watt said there was “a sense of five-ness” about the quins.

“They really look after each other,” she said.

Having previously had twins and triplets in her care,Ms Watt said having the quins at the centre had been rewarding and she was going to miss them.

“The worst part of my job is saying goodbye to theselittle people because I get so attached to them.”

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Sydney traffic chaos: truck spills load of dirt on Harbour Bridge, closing lanes

Motorists advised to use the tunnel after the truck lost its load. Photo: Louise Kennerley Traffic slowed to a crawl Photo: Sarah Keayes
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The cleanup is underway. Photo: [email protected]南京夜网419论坛

The spill closed northbound lanes. Photo: Sarah Keayes

NSW traffic

All lanes have been reopened on the Sydney Harbour Bridge after a dump truck spilled a large amount of dirt on the road.

Motorists and people catching buses north across the bridge are still warned to expect significant delays following the spill, which occurred just before 1pm.

As of 3:25pm, south-bound traffic is backed up to Cammeray, while north-bound delays begin at Darling Harbour.

The Transport Management Centre (TMC) advised motorists to use the Sydney Harbour Tunnel instead, and those planning to take a bus north from the city have been urged to take the train instead.

The TMC advised motorists to allow extra travel time, as traffic is also heavier than usual in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel.   Massive delays on the Harbour Bridge – northbound. Photo shows dirt covering a long stretch of middle lane. pic.twitter南京夜网/ENQyI8vonM— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) January 22, 2016

“Motorists already on the Harbour Bridge should allow plenty of extra travel time and expect significant delays,” the TMC said.

“South-bound traffic is also heavy as motorists are slowing past the site.”

Buses leaving the CBD across the Harbour Bridge are delayed up to 25 minutes, while those heading into the city are delayed up to 15 minutes.

Traffic crews are on the bridge, but it is not known how long it will take to clean up the spillage.

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Mike Baird changes tack on coal as NSW starts to prepare for industry’s decline

Digging a deeper hole: the NSW coal industry’s grim outlook is triggering a reassessment of the industry in many quarters. Photo: Wolter Peeters An open-cut coal mine looms over Muswellbrook. Photo: Wolter Peeters
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Mine rehabilitation fears amid industry slowdown

Coal miners given more leeway

The government has met with a series of anti-mining activists amid slumping industry fortunes, apparently making good on a pledge to give more equal weight to environmental and social issues when considering mine approvals.

The conciliatory approach with activists comes at a crucial time for the coal mining industry, with Premier Mike Baird’s government considering approvals to mine 1.2 billion tonnes, after approving 1.8 billion tonnes of new coal mining since he became premier.

On Wednesday and Thursday senior officials were dispatched on a road trip to hear concerns of anti-coal activists.

Deputy secretary Simon Draper and executive director Liz Livingstone, both from the Premier’s department, and a policy officer spent two days hearing from farmers, winemakers and other groups opposed to coal mine expansion.

The tour adds to signs that the push to develop coal mines is stalling, and may even face stiff new regulation.

Officials are quietly seeking more accurate readings of the future of coal mining amid a slump in prices and demand.

Poor market conditions are likely to force companies to scale back plans or sell assets.

It is understood moves are afoot to impose tighter controls on coal mining in the so-called Special Area of the Sydney catchment.

The tour, organised by environmental campaigners Lock the Gate, included Newcastle, Bulga, and the Liverpool Plains before ending in the Pilliga where coal seam gas is also a contested issue.

“We gave them a great deal to think about,” said Rosemary Nankivell​, chairman of the SOS Liverpool Plains group, who met the officials at Breeza on Thursday. “It’s very significant that it’s someone from the Premier’s office rather than the usual rabble.”‘

‘Nothing unusual’?

The visit to anti-mining groups follows the creation by the Premier’s office in November of a taskforce to reduce conflicts between communities and resource use. The trip was “nothing unusual” as officials regularly seek a range of views, a spokeswoman said.

Others, though, take a different view, including John Krey, who heads the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association and met the group in Bulga on Wednesday.

“They were not visiting any mining facility, they were not meeting any mining companies – the Minerals Council will probably not be happy,” Mr Krey said.

The council, headed by Stephen Galilee, a former chief of staff for Mr Baird, was not given prior warning of the tour.

“We would expect the same officials to want to visit mine sites and meet with mine workers and local suppliers as part of their duties in relation to these issues,” Mr Galilee said.

NSW Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said it was urgent the government recognised “coal is in inexorable decline” and it drafts “a strategy for a managed transition, rather than allow a chaotic collapse”.

“The Baird government’s approval of 1.8 billion tonnes of coal mining in less than two years is reckless in an age of climate change,” he said.

“With 1.2 billion extra tonnes of coal awaiting approval, including controversial mines on the Liverpool Plains, Bylong Valley and Southern Highlands, Premier Baird must recognise that enough is enough.”

Adam Searle, Shadow Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy, said Labor supported transparent planning process for all land use: “This is something the O’Farrell and Baird Governments abandoned for a number of years.”

Caroona question

When it comes to shelving mines, one candidate is understood to be BHP Billiton and its proposed 10 million tonne a year thermal coal mine at Caroona – one of the regions visited by the Draper team.

BHP denied it is planning to hand back its licence. The company “continues to progress the approvals process” and is finalising work for the start of its environment impact statement, a spokeswoman said.

Treasury, meanwhile, has once again had to slash its forecast for mining royalties, slashing the expected take by $129 million for the current fiscal year, according to its mid-year update. The reduction swells to $373 million by 2018-19. (See chart below of Treasury forecasts:)

‘Profitless prosperity’

The industry’s growth looks to be stalling. Coal exports volumes – about 80 per cent of which are bound for power plants and the rest used to make steel – rose every year in the last decade – doubling since 2000 – but fell 1 per cent last year, according to energy analyst Tim Buckley.

Mr Buckley, a former Citi analyst and now with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said NSW is not alone – joining Queensland and federal agencies among others – in reviewing mining’s prospects.

“The government in various areas is finding the historical way of doing things is not working,” Mr Buckley said.

The Minerals Council said the overall mining industry contributed about $21 billion to the state last year, including $1.27 billion in royalties, and employs 35,000 directly and indirectly.

The council pointed to a report by the International Energy Agency last year that projected continued growth for the industry, with Australia set to overtake Indonesia as the world’s biggest coal exporter.

Mr Buckley, though, said a bigger market share would be a poor guide of the industry’s health.

“This is profitless prosperity,” he said. “The average mine is making no money.”

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