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From Australia News in Brief

The Australian ambassador and the UN coordinator visits the Chouf Association for Development in Marj Barja - Iqlim al-Kharroub
Councillor Sameer Pandey elected new Lord Mayor of Parramatta
NSW government set to abolish first home buyer land tax choice
Minister Chris Bowen briefs carbon farming industry on federal policy work
Australian man Jason Kennison dies during Mount Everest climb
Albanese hosts Indian PM Modi for brief visit focused on economic co-operation
Air strikes continue in Sudan amid talk of seven-day ceasefire
Talks to raise US debt limit in temporary deadlock as deadline approaches
Joint state service to be held at Sydney Opera House for late entertainer Barry Humpries
Fire and Rescue NSW bolstered as 225 new recruits join the service
$35m earmarked for solar power projects in the Northern Territory
New planetarium at Bendigo expected to prove a tourism magnet

The Australian ambassador and the UN coordinator visits the Chouf Association for Development in Marj Barja - Iqlim al-Kharroub
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l:  Australian Ambassador to Lebanon, Andrew Barnes, accompanied by the United Nations Coordinator for Women's Affairs in Lebanon, Gielan Elmessiri, visited Sunday the Chouf Association for Development in the town of Barja - Ain Al-Assad in Iqlim Al-Kharoub, where they were received by the President of the Association, Daad Nassif Al-Kazzi.
Kazzi gave a briefing on the establishment of the association, and its activities in the service of citizens, in light of the difficult economic and social conditions.
Ambassador Barnes and Mrs. Elmessiri toured the departments of the association, the Archbishop Maroun Al-Ammar Center for Primary Health Care, and the Archbishop Elie Al-Haddad Center for Psycho-Kinematic Treatments, where they learned about their work, the difficulties they face, and the needs of the two centers.
Barnes and Elmessiri expressed their admiration for the valuable efforts made by the workers in the association and the two centers in serving the people, and expressed their willingness to cooperate with the association by providing the necessary support to advance its efforts in promoting work and health.
In turn, Kazzi thanked the Australian Ambassador and the United Nations Coordinator for Women's Affairs in Lebanon for this valuable visit, stressing "the readiness for joint cooperation in everything that serves the people of the region, according to the rules of transparent professional work."
City of Parramatta on Twitter:
Councillor Sameer Pandey elected new Lord Mayor of Parramatta
City of Parramatta Council tonight elected Councillor Sameer Pandey as its new Lord Mayor.
Councillor Pandey, who represents the Parramatta Ward, is the City’s first Lord Mayor of Indian origin.
Cr Pandey said it was a privilege to lead the council of one of the fastest growing centres in Australia.
 “The City of Parramatta is the geographical heart of Greater Sydney and a major economic powerhouse as well as the best place in Sydney to live,” Cr Pandey said.
 “Parramatta is home to a vibrant and diverse community and I’m excited to lead the City as it cements itself as Sydney’s second CBD and the focus of some of its most exciting opportunities.” 
Councillor Donna Davis MP stepped down from the role following her election as the State Member for Parramatta. Cr Davis MP will continue as a councillor until the next local government elections in September 2024.
A new Deputy Lord Mayor will be elected at the next meeting of Council in June.
Under the Local Government Act 1993, Council is required to conduct a new election for Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor in September 2023.
The Middle East Times congratulates Samir Pandey on his election as the new mayor of Parramatta. We wish him all the best.
NSW government set to abolish first home buyer land tax choice - ABC News
NSW government set to abolish first home buyer land tax choice
The Minns government will this week move to abolish the Coalition's first home buyer land tax choice and replace it with increased stamp duty exemptions.
It plans to introduce legislation when parliament returns on Tuesday.
Late last year, a bill was passed to give first home buyers an option to pay an annual land tax instead of stamp duty on properties up to $1.5 million.
Since its inception, almost 5,000 properties have become part of the land tax scheme.
The government says that option will cease to exist from July 1, but home owners who have already opted in can continue to pay the land tax until they sell their property.
Labor made it clear it would abandon the land tax choice in the lead-up to the March election.
Instead, first home buyers will not have to pay stamp duty when purchasing a property to the value of $800, 000.
Premier Chris Minns has been arguing the merits of Labor's scheme over the previous Coalition government's assistance.
"This is a fairer and simpler system to ensure more first home buyers have a chance of owning their first property," he said.
"I understand the stress of trying to purchase your first home. I want more singles, couples and families realising this dream."
The government's plan lifts the current exemption from $650, 000 to $800,000.
It says first home buyers will save $31,000 in stamp duty when they buy an $800,000 property.
There will also be reductions in stamp duty for first-time buyers of properties up to $1 million.
The opposition has vowed to try to block the repeal of the land tax choice, which was a signature policy of the previous Perrottet government.
Despite being in minority in both the lower and upper houses of parliament, the government's legislation is expected to pass.
But the numbers could be tight in the upper house.
Australian carbon prices surge on Labor win, as Bowen holds back  'greenslide' | RenewEconomy
Minister Chris Bowen briefs carbon farming industry on federal policy work
Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen has addressed the seventh Carbon Farming Industry Forum in Cairns.
He briefed the forum on the federal government’s commitment to its climate and energy agenda in its first year in office.
“A year and a day later, we can look back and say that we’ve made good progress on each of those commitments,” he said.
“Australia’s emissions reduction targets are now enshrined in law … we released our National Electric Vehicle Strategy, including a commitment to introduce Fuel Efficiency Standards and Australia’s largest emitters are now on a realistic path to net zero by 2050.
“Our Safeguard reforms will cut over 200 million tonnes of emissions by 2030, equivalent to taking two-thirds of the nation’s cars off the road. We are getting on with the job of implementing the Chubb Review, restoring confidence in the integrity of our carbon crediting scheme.
But he warn that there was still “a huge amount” of work to do.
“In a little over 5 weeks, the strengthened Safeguard Mechanism will be in operation. Facilities covered by the Safeguard will need to cut emissions by 4.9% per year: Facilities in the mining, manufacturing, transport, oil, gas and waste sectors,” he said.
“Facilities can meet their obligations by reducing emissions onsite, and earn Safeguard Mechanism Credits if they beat their baselines. Facilities that don’t reach their baselines can purchase those credits, or surrender Australian Carbon Credit Units, to offset their emissions.
“We’ve invested over $20 million in a new Carbon Farming Outreach Program. I expect grants under the program to open soon. The program will fund trusted and independent advisors to provide training and support to land holders across Australia, so that they can make informed decisions about participating in carbon markets.”
Australian man Jason Kennison dies during Mount Everest climb - ABC News
Australian man Jason Kennison dies during Mount Everest climb
A selfie of a man wearing a beanie while on Mount Everest
Jason Kennison (left) died while descending Mount Everest. (Just Giving)
Help keep family & friends informed by sharing this article
A 40-year-old Australian man has died while descending Mount Everest.
His father Jock Kennison said he was notified of his son's death by local police early yesterday.
Jason Kennison had been in Nepal for the previous six weeks to prepare for the climb.
His body is yet to be recovered.
His sister Michelle Graham told the ABC that Mr Kennison had accomplished his goal of reaching the peak.
"We are so proud of his achievements and we take great solace in knowing he made it to the summit. The highest place on this earth," she said.
"Jason was one to live a full life.
"He would put his mind to something, set a goal and achieve it.
"His family are heartbroken and he will be forever missed."
Narendra Modi Australia: Trade, defence, migration deal top Indian prime  minister's agenda
Albanese hosts Indian PM Modi for brief visit focused on economic co-operation
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has welcomed Indian PM Shri Narendra Modi to Australia from May 22-24.
Modi’s visit follows the Australia-India Annual Leaders Summit held at New Delhi in March and discussions at the G7 Summit and Quad Leaders' meeting in Hiroshima over the weekend. 
At their bilateral meeting, the leaders will discuss trade and investment, including efforts to boost trade between the countries through an economic co-operation agreement, and work to strengthen people to people links, renewable energy, and defence and security co-operation.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said “I am honoured to host Prime Minister Modi for an official visit to Australia after receiving an extremely warm welcome in India earlier this year.
“Australia and India share a commitment to a stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific. Together we have an important role to play in supporting this vision. 
“As friends and partners, the relationship between our countries has never been closer. I look forward to celebrating Australia’s vibrant Indian community with Prime Minister Modi in Sydney.”
PM Modi will also meet business leaders to drive Australia’s growing trade and investment relationship with India and take forward opportunities from the Australia-India CEO Forum held in Mumbai in March.
The two prime ministers will attend a community event in Sydney to celebrate Australia’s Indian diaspora.
Modi last visited Australia in 2014.
PM Albanese said he looks forward to visiting India in September for the G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi. 
Sudan's warring Generals agree to 1-week ceasefire amid air strikes,  embassy attacks
Air strikes continue in Sudan amid talk of seven-day ceasefire
Air strikes hit the outer areas of the Sudanese capital Khartoum overnight on Saturday amid reports that a seven-day ceasefire had been signed in the six-week-old conflict.
The fighting between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has led to a collapse in law and order as the two sides blame each other for the conflict.
Stocks of food, cash and essentials are rapidly dwindling, and mass looting has hit banks, embassies, factories and aid warehouses.
Air strikes were reported by eyewitnesses in southern Omdurman and northern Bahri, the two cities that lie across the Nile from Khartoum, forming Sudan’s “triple capital”. Some of the strikes took place near the state broadcaster in Omdurman, the eyewitnesses said.
The army and RSF has also agreed to a seven-day humanitarian truce and ceasefire, two negotiation sources said on Saturday (local time), to take effect after 48 hours. Past similar ceasefires were not honoured by the warring parties.
In recent days, ground fighting flared again in the Darfur region, in the cities of Nyala and Zalenjei. Both sides blamed each other for sparking the fighting in Nyala, one of the country’s largest cities, which had for weeks been relatively calm due to a locally brokered truce.
On Friday, army leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan removed RSF chief Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo as his deputy on the ruling council they led. He replaced him with former rebel leader Malik Agar.
On Saturday, Agar said he accepted the position to help secure peace and support for the upcoming agricultural season.
On Saturday, the US State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Mr Burhan about ongoing talks in Saudi Arabia aimed at reaching a ceasefire.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) also announced that more than $US100m in aid to Sudan and countries receiving Sudanese refugees, including food and medical assistance.
Biden and McCarthy have
Talks to raise US debt limit in temporary deadlock as deadline approaches
White House and Republican congressional negotiators trying to raise the US federal debt ceiling are not expected to meet anytime soon as the country inches closer to the debt ceiling deadline of June 1.
US Representative Patrick McHenry, a Republican negotiator, said no meetings were scheduled for Saturday (local time).
Republicans leaders were “going to huddle as a team and assess where things stood,” McHenry said at the US Capitol.
He did not comment whether there would be more talks on Sunday.
Two meetings ended on Friday with no progress cited by either side and with negotiators saying they were not sure when new meetings would take place.
There are less than two weeks before June 1 when the US Treasury Department has warned that the federal government could be unable to pay all its debts.
That would trigger a default that could cause chaos in financial markets and spike interest rates.
Biden said in Japan that he still believed a default could be avoided.
“I still believe we’ll be able to avoid a default and we’ll get something decent done,” Biden told reporters in Hiroshima, Japan, where he is attending a meeting of leaders of the G7.
Biden was upbeat despite the White House acknowledging that “serious differences” remained with Republicans, who control the House of Representatives.
House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said that progress needed to be made on changing the “trajectory” of US government deficit spending and rapidly rising debt.
Republicans are pushing for sharp spending cuts in exchange for the increase in the government’s self-imposed borrowing limit, a move needed regularly to cover costs of spending and tax cuts previously approved by lawmakers.
Republicans control the House by a thin margin while Biden’s Democrats have a thin Senate majority.
Opera House curtain call for luminary Barry Humphries | The West Australian
Joint state service to be held at Sydney Opera House for late entertainer Barry Humpries
The family of Barry Humphries AO CBE has accepted the offer of a state memorial service in recognition of the late entertainer’s contribution to Australian arts and entertainment.
The service will be held at the Sydney Opera House on Friday, December 15, and co-hosted by the Australian and NSW Governments in partnership with the national arts community.
Humphries died in Sydney on April 22, aged 89, following a celebrated 70-year global career. He was best known for his iconic characters including Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson, as well as being a renowned author, actor and satirist.
The memorial service will gather dignitaries, family, friends and fans of the late Humphries from across the country and around the world.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “Barry Humphries was a much-loved Australian and a huge loss to the arts community.
“The Australian Government is pleased to work with the New South Wales Government to deliver a State Memorial to honour the life and legacy of this beloved entertainer.”
NSW Premier Chris Minns said: “Barry Humphries was one of our nation’s greatest ever comedic talents, and his passing marks the end of an era in Australian entertainment.
“He was a true master of his craft, and his legacy will continue to live on through the unforgettable characters he brought to life on stage and screen.”
“The Sydney Opera House is a fitting location for what promises to be a memorable send-off given the venue's significance in Australian arts, culture and entertainment.”
Fire and Rescue NSW welcomes 225 new recruits - Orchard Hills - Fire and Rescue  NSW
Fire and Rescue NSW bolstered as 225 new recruits join the service
More than 200 new firefighters will join the ranks of Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) with 180 men and 45 women joining the firefighting frontline after they graduated at the Emergency Services Academy at Orchard Hills.
Each new recruit spent up to 14 weeks studying including techniques to help deal with different fire emergencies, search and rescue skills, applying first aid, heavy vehicle driving and hazardous materials (hazmat) training.
The new intake is made up of 61 permanent firefighters and 164 who qualify as on-call firefighters, having completed the application process and endured the physically demanding training regime.
The new state government wants to hire another additional 600 new FRNSW firefighters over the next 8 years.
Jihad Dib MP
Emergency Services Minister Jihad Dib said: “It speaks volumes that the overwhelming motive for joining Fire and Rescue NSW is to make a positive difference to the community, and it’s great to see that this year’s recruits have come from all walks of life.”
“It takes a special type of person to risk their own life to protect the lives of others and I’d like to congratulate all 225 firefighters graduating today – they’ll be doing so much more than putting out fires.”
Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Paul Baxter said: “A career at Fire and Rescue NSW involves more than fire. Our firefighters are ready to support our community at their time of greatest need in all sorts of ways.”
“The firefighters graduating today have shown great determination, from the competitive application process to the demanding physical training, and they will go out into our communities armed with specialist skills to be prepared for anything.”
Chris Bowen to visit Alice Springs with $35m NT renewable energy package |  NT News
$35m earmarked for solar power projects in the Northern Territory
The Federal Government is to spend $35 million on solar projects in the Northern Territory, including a big battery in Darwin, microgrids in remote communities and solar banks.
The funding details were announced by Federal Minister for Energy and Climate Change Chris Bowen.
He said up to $15m will support the rollout of a 35Mw battery at Darwin’s Channel Island Power Station that can power up to 150,000 households and $15m on microgrids in remote Indigenous communities. The Commonwealth will provide $4.7m to deploy solar banks across the territory.
 “The Channel Island battery will help households and businesses save on electricity bills by unlocking additional capacity for renewables, delivering cheaper and cleaner energy to homes and businesses,” Mr Bowen said.
“This investment is about ensuring Territorians, whether or not they’re on the grid get a fair deal on energy and businesses get the affordable energy they need.
“Microgrids will help First Nations communities protect their environmental and cultural heritage by dramatically reducing the use of diesel as a source of power.”
“Solar banks will allow Territorians who don’t have access to solar ownership, such as renters and apartment dwellers, have equity in the country’s clean energy transition.”
The solar banks funding is part of government efforts to co-invest $101m in solar banks to provide cheaper electricity for more than 25,000 Australian households.
The Government’s Energy Price Relief Plan capped coal and gas prices, reduced wholesale electricity prices by 50% since October, and made more than five million households and one million small businesses eligible for energy rebates from July 1.
An incredible new state-of-the-art planetarium has opened in Bendigo
New planetarium at Bendigo expected to prove a tourism magnet
A new planetarium that had opened in the regional Victorian city of Bendigo will feature a state-of-the-art domed theatre.
The new Bendigo Planetarium at the Discovery Science and Technology Centre is now doubled the size of the original and was backed by $250,000 from the Regional Tourism Investment Fund.
The redesigned planetarium’s six-metre high dome theatre will display high-res images of planets and is expected to attract more than 14,000 new visitors to the region annually.
Quote attributable to Minister for Regional Development Harriet Shing
“The beautiful new Bendigo Planetarium will provide generations of locals and visitors with an opportunity to discover the universe and enjoy facilities for a range of other community gatherings and events.”
Victorian Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Steve Dimopoulous said: “This project will be another drawcard attraction helping to entice more visitors to Bendigo.”
MP for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said: “A new expanded planetarium in Bendigo will not only be great for locals but will draw more visitors to the region.”
MP for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan said: “We are so pleased this state-of-the-art facility is now open to the public, offering world-class science and technology experiences that foster STEM learning.”
Visitors can sit back and explore outer space by watching footage and images displayed on the doom by a 360-degree projector. The space can also be hired by the community for film screenings or other events.
The planetarium will soon be used for the Central Victorian Indigenous Film Festival to show a film on Carriberrie dance, song and music in Aboriginal culture recorded on 360-degree cameras.


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