$25 million upgrade to flood rescue fleet in NSW
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: Almost 200 new vehicles and vessels for the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) are being delivered as part of a $25 million upgrade to its flood rescue fleet.
The investment comes following record flooding last year and resulted in more than 80,000 calls for help to the NSW SES.
More than $14.7 million will go towards 142 new boats, rafts, trucks, cars and trailers in response to recommendations from an independent flood inquiry. These new assets include 40 inflatable rescue vessels, 50 ark angel inflatable rescue rafts, 10 high clearance trucks to drive through floodwaters, eight light flood rescue vehicles, 30 command vehicles, two heavy rescue vehicles and two car trailers.
All new vehicles are being equipped with ‘vehicle as a node’ technology, allowing crews to communicate using 4G and satellite networks in addition to regular radio networks. This helps ensure crews can stay connected during emergencies and overcome communications blackspots.
A further $10.9 million under the NSW Government’s Fleet Replacement Program will fund more than 50 new vessels, storm and rescue vehicles, command vehicles and trailers to replace existing assets for SES units across NSW.
NSW Premier Chris Minns said: “These new boats and vehicles will help save lives and minimise the impact of disasters on communities.
“The bravery and selflessness of SES volunteers over recent years has been remarkable. The NSW Government is proud to be helping the SES to help people across our state.”
Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib said: “This funding recognises the valuable contribution SES volunteers make to the state, particularly when they are on the frontline during floods and storms.
“These resources will enhance our response capabilities across the state and will particularly benefit flood-impacted communities in the Central West and the Northern Rivers.
“This investment also supports the boat building sector in our state, demonstrating the capability of local industry to deliver high quality vessels for emergency service use.”
NSW SES Commissioner Carlene York APM said: “These new assets ensure we can provide swift and effective assistance to those who need it most during times of crisis.
“The additional vessels and equipment will help volunteers save lives and respond to floods as well as many other incidents such as road crashes and land rescues, searches and other emergencies.”
Delivery of the assets set to be completed by the end of this financial year. SES units in the Northern Rivers, Central West and Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley already received equipment. Work is under way at Britton Marine in Kurnell on inflatable rescue boats and ark angel rafts, while other vessels are being built at Yamba Welding and Engineering.
Albanese in US to promote Australia’s cause
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is in the US for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting in San Francisco from November 15-17.
APEC is the leading economic forum for the Asia-Pacific region and APEC partners make up around 75 per cent of Australia’s total trade in goods and services.
During the meeting, the Prime Minister will advance Australia’s priorities of free and open rules-based trade in the region, supply chain resilience, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
Albanese will discuss environmental and sustainability issues with member economies — and exchange views on how economies of the region can collaborate to cut emissions and make the transition to a renewable energy future.
“Australia’s participation at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting signals our enduring commitment to strengthening regional economic cooperation and growth,” he said.
“This year’s theme focuses on resiliency, sustainability and inclusion—all key priorities of the Australian Government.
“Engagement with APEC partners is critical for seizing the opportunities to create the jobs of the future, to expand our economic growth, and to take advantage of our location – on the doorstep of the fastest growing region in human history.”
Australia looks to use AI in public service as Albanese meets with Microsoft boss
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has met with Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella in San Francisco during the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting.
PM Albanese announced that the government was looking at using generative artificial intelligence (AI) through its Digital Transformation Agency (DTA).
The Government will conduct a six-month trial of Microsoft 365 Copilot, making it one of the first governments in the world to deploy the generative AI service.
The six month trial will run from January to June 2024, with Microsoft providing training, onboarding and implementation assistance with participating agencies. After the trial the DTA will evaluate their experience and report to government.
PM Albanese said: “By strengthening our partnership with Microsoft, we are charting a course for the future of public service – one where generative AI is used responsibly to enhance the work of the APS in delivering for Australians without compromising on safety."
Minister for Finance Katy Gallagher said: “AI is emerging as a widely used technology and presents many opportunities for government and the way it delivers crucial services to the Australian community, but we must adopt it in a safe and controlled way.
“This exciting pilot will support the government's APS reform agenda by identifying how we can safely use this technology to improve our work and service delivery but do so in a way that is controlled and allows us to learn the lessons with minimal impact on existing processes and services.”
The Prime Minister recently announced Microsoft’s $5 billion investment in Australia, alongside Microsoft executives during an official visit to Washington.
That announcement included:
• A $5 billion investment to expand its hyperscale cloud computing and AI infrastructure over the next two years to grow its data centre footprint from 20 to 29 sites in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
• Opening a new Microsoft Data Centre Academy, in partnership with TAFE NSW, and a commitment to train an additional 300,000 Australians through its global skills program.
• Collaboration with the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) on Microsoft-ASD Cyber Shield to improve joint capability to identify, prevent and respond to cyber threats.
• Microsoft’s investment will help Australia become a world-leading digital economy by significantly investing in skills and training.
Brawl allegedly broke out at petrol station near Bondi beach
By Madeleine Achenza
Police have shared fresh details of an altercation that allegedly unfolded over a Palestinian flag near one of Sydney’s famous beaches.
Police allege a silver Toyota Corolla hatchback was travelling on O’Brien Street at North Bondi about 10.10pm on Wednesday, when it passed a white Mercedes sedan travelling in the opposite direction towards Old South Head Road.
The hatchback performed a U-Turn before both vehicles came to a stop and the drivers were involved in a verbal argument, police said.
The driver’s side mirror of the hatchback was allegedly smashed by a rock before the driver drove away from the scene and stopped at an Ampol petrol station on Old South Head Road.
The Mercedes driver allegedly followed and parked in the petrol station where the occupants of both vehicles got out of the car.
The 19-year-old driver of the hatchback and the four teenage passengers of the Mercedes - all 17-year-old males - then allegedly engaged in a verbal fight.
Within ten minutes, police patrolling the area pulled into the petrol station and separated the groups.
Police said they were told a group were acting aggressive.
The Australian Jewish Association claimed in a post shared to the social media platform X - formerly known as Twitter -that the fight broke out over a Palestinian flag being flown on the Mercedes.
“4 men of Middle Eastern appearance came into North Bondi with a Palestinian Arab flag on their car,” the post said.
“They got into an altercation with a young Jewish man.”
Witnesses told 2GB radio station that police seized a hockey stick and a tool.
Police confirmed that a number of items were seized and will undergo forensic examination.
No injuries were reported and no charges have been laid.
Police are investigating the incident and would not confirm whether it was a racially motivated attack.
Next office entrants for Parramatta identified as PAC wins infrastructure award
The Property Council of Australia and Parramatta council have partnered with Deloitte to launch a research report that identifies prospective new entrants to the Parramatta CBD.
Lord Mayor of Parramatta Councillor Pierre Esber said Parramatta’s CBD is a growing economic powerhouse.
“Parramatta is the true beating heart of Greater Sydney – with more people set to live to its west than its east by 2036, it makes sense more and more businesses are building a presence here,” he said.
“The billions of dollars of investment transforming our city have made it a marketplace of ideas and a magnet for culture, talent and entrepreneurship. It’s a natural choice for commercial tenants looking for new headquarters.”
The Property Council of Australia’s Western Sydney Regional Director Ross Grove said the paper’s launch charts a course for maintaining the momentum of Parramatta into the future.
“Parramatta’s office market has undergone a massive transformation,” said the Property Council’s Western Sydney Regional Director Ross Grove.
“We have seen a wave of new A-Grade office stock opening up across multiple sites at once. This stock is filling-up, but it is often coming at the expense of the existing B-Grade office market - so we’ll need additional commercial tenancies to grow the size of the pie for everyone.”
The paper stems from months of engagement with leaders in commercial real estate, landlords, tenants and business leaders and identifies five prospective growth markets for new office tenancies:
Parramatta’s $88.6 million swimming, wellness and fitness hub has been crowned as Western Sydney’s top new sport and recreation facility at the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue’s Boomtown! 2023 Property & Infrastructure Awards.
Parramatta Lord Mayor Cr Pierre Esber said it’s a credit to everyone involved in the project.
“PAC has only been open two months but is already making a huge splash in our community with 80,000 visits and more than 2000 learn-to-swim registrations - and summer hasn’t even started yet,” he said.
“It’s testament to the efforts of hundreds of people who have worked incredibly hard to bring our vision for this centre to life from first designs to first lap.”
PAC was named Outstanding Sports and Recreation Facility and was one of 12 finalists in contention for Boomtown’s Project of the Year.
Located within Parramatta Park on the doorstep of the CBD, PAC is a year-round destination where people can swim, train in the gym or relax in the steam, spa and sauna area.
“We are proud of PAC – a place where kids will learn to swim and train to be Australia’s next sports superstar and where families can relax on a hot day,” Cr Esber said.
Record heat expected for 2024 as El Nino shapes to be one of the strongest on record
The current El Nino phase of the Pacific Ocean is forecast to peak as one of the strongest on record, laying the platform for unprecedented global temperatures through 2024.
A comparison of the most recent 17 El Nino events show the 2023 edition was the sixth strongest to October based off the most commonly used measure, the Nino 3.4 index.
Niño 3.4 is a calculation made by climatologists to measure the central Pacific Sea surface temperature (SST) relative to average.
The value was analysed at +1.6 degrees Celsius in October, double the Bureau of Meteorology’s (the Bureau) El Niño threshold and above the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAAs) +1.5°C criteria for a “strong” event.
Most forecasts indicate the Pacific should continue warming during the coming weeks and peak through December and January.
According to the latest NOAA monthly diagnostic report there is even a possibility this El Nino could rival previous super events, including the record strong El Ninos of 1997-98 and 2015-16.
“There is a 35 per cent chance of this event becoming ‘historically strong’ (>2.0°C) for the November-January season,” the report said.
A Nino 3.4 index exceeding 2.2C, which some models are predicting (including the Bureau’s), would send the ranking into the top three strongest El Nino’s since 1950.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) concurred with NOAA’s intensity assessment but both organisations cautioned against drawing conclusions on the subsequent change in weather.
“A strong El Nino does not necessarily mean strong El Nino impacts locally … El Nino is not the only factor that drives global and regional climate patterns, and that the magnitudes of El Nino indicators do not directly correspond to the magnitudes of their effects,” the WMO said last week.
The complex relationship between El Nino and weather patterns is especially relevant to Australia where the rainfall impact diminishes during summer while temperatures remain unusually high.
This means that while Australia’s rainfall should gradually shift to resemble a conventional summer pattern during the coming months, our temperatures are likely to remain well above average.
An additional influence on our upcoming summer is Earth’s record warm seas, which according to the WMO’s Global Seasonal Climate Update strongly favour ongoing warmth for Australia.
“Consistent with the anticipated development of an El Nino … together with the prediction of above-normal sea-surface temperatures over much of the global oceans, there is widespread prediction of above-normal temperatures over almost all land areas …. Over most other Southern Hemisphere land areas north of about 30°S, the probabilities for above-normal temperature are strongly increased.”
US funding crisis looms again as new Speaker’s proposal runs into opposition
US House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson has unveiled a Republican Party stop-gap spending measure to avert a looming government shutdown but it quickly ran into opposition from lawmakers from both parties in Congress.
Unlike ordinary continuing resolutions, or “CRs,” that fund federal agencies for a specific period, the measure announced by Johnson would fund some parts of the government until January 19 and others until February 2.
“This two-step continuing resolution is a necessary bill to place House Republicans in the best position to fight for conservative victories,” Johnson said in a statement.
The stop-gap measure contained no extra funding such as aid for Israel or Ukraine.
The House and Democratic-led Senate must agree on a spending vehicle that US President Joe Biden can sign into law by Friday or risk a fourth partial government shutdown in a decade that would close national parks, disrupt pay for as many as 4 million federal workers and disrupt a swath of activities from financial oversight to scientific research.
The legislation would extend funding for military construction, veterans benefits, transportation, housing, urban development, agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and energy and water programs until January. 19. Funding for all other federal operations would run out on February 2.
But the plan quickly came under fire from members of both parties.
“My opposition to the clean CR just announced by the Speaker to the @HouseGOP cannot be overstated,” Representative Chip Roy, a member of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, said on social media.
Democratic Senator Brian Schatz called Johnson’s measure “super convoluted,” adding that “all of this nonsense costs taxpayer money”.
“We are going to pass a clean short term CR. The only question is whether we do it stupidly and catastrophically or we do it like adults,” Schatz wrote on social media.
A stop-gap measure would give lawmakers more time to implement full-scale appropriations bills to fund the government to September 30.
Johnson put Democrats on notice that failure to reach agreement on 2024 spending would prompt House Republicans to implement “a full-year CR with appropriate adjustments to meet our national security priorities”.
Johnson, who won the speaker’s gavel less than three weeks ago, could put his own political future at risk if his current plan fails to win support for passage and he is forced to go with a standard CR that Democrats can accept.
Spelling Bee winners put PM Anthony Albanese’s knowledge to the test
A chance at throwing another curveball at Anthony Albanese inspired one of the nation’s top spellers to claim the crown for a second year running.
Zachary Cheng, 14, returned to the Prime Minister’s office on Monday with a plan to catch Mr Albanese out once again.
“He’s not a great speller,” the Melbourne student joked.
Zac, Abigail Koh, 12, and 9-year-old Samuel Wright were crowned champions across three age groups in the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee this year.
Last year, Mr Albanese didn’t get four letters into “magnanimous”, meaning generous or forgiving, before Zac jumped in to correct him.
Things didn’t get any easier this year after Zac asked him to spell “balalaika”, the word for a Russian stringed instrument.
“I don’t even know what that is … How can I be expected to spell Russian,” Mr Albanese laughed, before offering to spell “Russian” instead.
Perth students Abigail and Samuel also joined in on the fun of ganging up on the Prime Minister.
Abigail, who scored a perfect 30/30 in the years 5-6 group, wanted to combine her love for English and music and asked him to spell ethnomusicological, meaning the study of music in its social and cultural contexts.
Despite the Prime Minister’s own passion for music even he wasn’t able to correctly guess how it was spelled.
Samuel, who took home the years 3-4 crown, asked Mr Albanese whether he knew how to spell “Caesar”. The Prime Minister scored 0/3, incorrectly spelling it “Caeser”, before having to dash out to vote in a division in the House of Representatives.
The Spelling Bee, which is run by Kids News and News Corp Australia, had nearly 60,000 students from 890 schools sign up for the competition.
Part of the winners’ prize was the chance to meet Mr Albanese at Parliament House.
News Corp’s community ambassador Penny Fowler said Spelling Bee was just another example of the organisation’s “investment in our youngest generations”.
“By making it fun, it helps instil in our children a genuine, lifelong love for learning through the written word,” she said.
“As News Corp Australia’s community ambassador, I am passionate about education as a force for good, creating positive change, and believe it is critical to our long term prosperity.
Kids News Editor Diana Jenkins revealed the competition would be back for its fourth year in 2024.
“Fun and free, the Bee brought together 57,453 registered students from 890 schools thanks to all the amazing teachers who believe as passionately as Kids News does that spelling skills change lives and create better futures for our children.”
Compensation for a complaint against religious defamation in NSW will reach one hundred thousand dollars
A new law that prohibits vilification on the grounds of religious belief, affiliation or activity in NSW has just taken effect.
The Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Vilification) Act 2023 amends the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 to make it unlawful to incite hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule of a person or people because of their religious belief, affiliation or activity.
The new law will also protect people who do not hold a religious belief or affiliation, or who do not engage in religious activity.
NSW Premier Chris Minns said: “There cannot be room for hatred which sows the seeds of mistrust and intolerance. We cannot tolerate religious vilification. This would threaten the thriving, tolerant, multi-religious and multi-ethnic heart of NSW.
“We must all champion community harmony and togetherness, and choose peace and solidarity over hatred and division. The commencement of these amendments to the Anti-Discrimination Act fulfils an important election promise.”
NSW Attorney General Michael Daley said: “No one, and no group of people, should have to encounter hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule because of their religious belief, affiliation or activity.
“The make-up of our society has changed since the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 became law and we have enacted legislation that reflects and protects our modern society.
“We welcome people to NSW from all over the world. The harmony we enjoy and for which we have worked so hard is worth protecting. These amendments support our deep commitment to a strong and cohesive NSW.”
Minister for Multiculturalism Steve Kamper said: “The message is simple. Those who would vilify others because of their religion should know that it is unacceptable.
“This much-needed legislation will provide our faith communities with similar protections provided to members of diverse and multicultural communities.”
A complaint about religious vilification may be made to Anti-Discrimination NSW, which will seek to resolve it by conciliation.
In certain circumstances, a complaint may also be referred to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for determination.
This would allow the President of the Anti-Discrimination Board to accept, investigate and attempt to conciliate complaints, as well as refer the complaint to NCAT for determination.
If a complaint is substantiated, NCAT may make a range of orders, including for an apology or for damages of up to $100,000.
Agreement reached on site to build new Australian nuclear submarines
The Commonwealth and South Australian governments have reached agreement on a land exchange for a new submarine construction yard.
Construction of the new yard at Osborne, South Australia, is expected to employ up to 4000 workers.
Under the agreement, design and construction partner Australian Naval Infrastructure will slowly take ownership of land parcels for the yard as from December.
Land will also be secured for the Skills and Training Academy for an elite submarine and naval shipbuilding workforce.
The SA Government will acquire defence land at Keswick and Smithfield, as well as part of the Cultana Training Area north of Whyalla.
Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said the agreement will turn Osborne “into one of the most advanced technical hubs in the world”.
“Osborne is key to Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine enterprise.
“The future Skills and Training Academy at Osborne will provide Australian workers with the advanced skills and training required to deliver a world-leading future submarine capability.”
South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said: “This is about much more than an exchange of land. This agreement helps unlock thousands of high quality, high paying jobs – in industries from shipbuilding to hydrogen, from Osborne to the Upper Spencer Gulf, and right across our economy.
“It will also help us deliver thousands of new, well-located homes for thousands of South Australians.
The Cultana site will be used by the SA Government for hydrogen and renewable energy projects, while the Keswick and Smithfield sites will undergo master planning for proposed urban renewal.
Keswick Barracks is within 4 kilometres of the heart of Adelaide’s CBD, and like Smithfield, has strong connections to public transport, retail, and other community facilities.
At least 15 per cent of dwellings in any future development at Keswick will be reserved for affordable housing while the Smithfield development will target a minimum of 40 per cent.
Work at the Osborne submarine construction yard will begin this year as the design is developed, before commencing the build of our first SSN-AUKUS submarines in the late 2020s.
Another 4000-5500 jobs are expected to be created for the build of the SSN-AUKUS in South Australia at the peak of the program.
Thousands of shipyard workers will be educated at the academy across shipbuilding-related disciplines.
Leaseback arrangements have been put in place for the Keswick and Smithfield sites to allow defence services and personnel to gradually relocate to alternative facilities.
Defence will maintain unrestricted access on the balance of the Cultana Training Area to enable critical ADF training exercises and operations can continue.