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From Australia, World news in Brief

PNG, Australian PMs meet in Canberra for fifth annual leaders forum
King Charles makes first statement since cancer diagnosis
William returns to fill royal void as King Charles faces cancer treatment
Speculation about interest rates between decline and increase
Bridging the transportation gap for young commuters in Sydney
Iran-backed Houthis launch three attacks in Red Sea, Gulf of Aden as tensions escalate, US military responds
Wong signals possible restart to UNRWA aid after payments paused amid allegations staff involved in October 7 terror attack
A battle is brewing over public school funding. Here's what's happening and what could come next
Two people die after being hit by freight train at Berowra Railway Station in Sydney's north
Son of former NSW premier sentenced for fabricating evidence that put innocent man in jail
Germany may be drawn into war if Russia wins, says Ukrainian leader
Biden weighs up response to drone attack as Republicans call for blood
Tax reforms will help all taxpayers, MP insists
Parramatta Mayor Pierre Esber pays tribute to late billionaire developer Lang Walker
Four veteran NSW firefighters named in NSW Australia Day honours list
Firefighters worried about smoke alarm complacency after Tamworth music festival

PNG, Australian PMs meet in Canberra for fifth annual leaders forum
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: Papua New Guinea Prime Minister and Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese held the fifth annual PNG-Australia Leaders’ Dialogue on February 8 in Canberra.
During his visit, PM Marape became the first Pacific Island leader to address federal parliament. 
The leaders also discussed their bilateral security relationship and the Bilateral Security Agreement signed on December 7, 2023.
Mr Marape welcomed the announcement of a A$100 million bilateral Law and Justice Partnership for 2024-27 with priority to be given to a Police Recruit and Investigations Training Facility at Bomana, in addition to construction and refurbishing of police barracks across PNG.
They also welcomed enhanced co-operation on cyber security, including the ability to deploy Pacific Cyber Rapid Assistance for Pacific Incidents and Disasters (RAPID) teams in the event of a cyber security incident and PNG’s fiscal sustainability and budget repair plans, including its International Monetary Fund (IMF) supported reform program.
Given the large number of PNG travellers to Australia, the leaders agreed for PNG to be a pilot country for a new streamlined, online lodgement arrangement for regular travelers to Australia. Mr Albanese welcomed PNG’s strong uptake of the Aged Care Expansion program as part of the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme, focused on recruiting and upskilling workers in the aged care sector. 
The prime ministers discussed boosting inclusive economic growth, resilient critical economic infrastructure, business ties, trade and investment between their countries and pledged to act on PNG’s needs for upgrades to critical energy assets and more reliable access to clean, green energy.
PM Marape thanked Australia for providing a US$150 million grant and concessional loan package for the repair and upgrade of key energy assets including refurbishment of the Ramu 1 hydropower station, a new transmission substation to improve power supply in Port Moresby, and improved metering financed by the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific. 
Australia also just finished building new solar farms in West Sepik and Bougainville which will power more than 50,000 households. Other power and solar projects this year have been lined up in Central, Madang and West New Britain provinces.
King Charles makes his first public statement since cancer diagnosis & says  he's 'so sorry he can't be there' | The US Sun
King Charles makes first statement since cancer diagnosis
Prince William has thanked the public for their well wishes following his fatherKing Charles’s cancer diagnosis, as the monarch made his first statement. Charles sent a message to Grenada, celebrating the Caribbean island marking 50 years of independence. While the message mostly focused on the nation and the king’s memories of visiting, he did note at the end that he was unable to celebrate in person. “I can only say how sorry I am that I cannot be with you in person to mark this momentous milestone,” the king wrote. 
Meanwhile, William took centre stage of royal public duties. “I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you... for the kind messages of support for Catherine and for my father,” the Duke of Cambridge said at a gala dinner.  
The dinner was the royal’s second official public appearance on Wednesday (local time) after returning to work following his wife Kate’s planned abdominal surgery on January 16. The Princess of Wales spent two weeks in hospital recovering. Since then, Buckingham Palace announced on Monday that tests on Charles, 75, revealed he had a form of cancer. With the king postponing public duties to undergo treatment and Kate not expected to return to engagements until after Easter, the onus will be on remaining royals, especially William and Queen Camilla, to be the monarchy’s public face.
Royal author Robert Hardman said William had already taken on substantial state duties towards the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign when she was hampered by mobility issues. “In that regard, it’s not that different, but obviously there’s the burden of expectation,” Mr Hardman said. “On many occasions, he will have to stand in; he’ll be sort of quasi head of state.” 
Meanwhile, Prince Harry has barely been on speaking terms with many of the Windsors following his criticism of the monarchy since stepping down from royal duties almost four years ago. A royal source said there were no plans for him to see his elder brother William during his visit to Britain. After only about 24 hours in Britain, Harry returned to California.
The king is due to speak with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak by phone on Wednesday, Mr Sunak’s spokesman said. Buckingham Palace has not given any details of the king’s condition, but said he was remaining “wholly positive” and looking forward to returning to public duty as soon as possible.
King Charles III has been diagnosed with cancer, will halt public duties as  he undergoes treatment | | meadvilletribune.com
William returns to fill royal void as King Charles faces cancer treatment
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: With his father King Charles III undergoing treatment for cancer and his wife recovering from surgery, Britain's Prince William will return to royal frontline duties on Wednesday.
The king's shock cancer diagnosis, announced on Monday, and Catherine's abdominal operation have left William shouldering a heavy royal burden.
William, 41, Charles's eldest son and heir to the throne, postponed public engagements to care for his wife, the Princess of Wales, and their three children after she was admitted to hospital on January 16.
But he will be back at work on Wednesday, handing out honours awarded to citizens for good deeds at Windsor Castle before attending the London Air Ambulance annual fundraising gala in central London.
He is also expected to take on some of his father's duties while he undergoes treatment, with fellow senior royals Princess Anne and Charles's wife Queen Camilla helping to share the load. 
Buckingham Palace has not specified the type of cancer afflicting the 75-year-old monarch, although it is understood not to be prostate cancer.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it had been "caught early".
The diagnosis comes just 17 months into his reign following the death of his 96-year-old mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8, 2022.
- 'Very deep' rift -
Adding to the drama, the king's estranged son Prince Harry flew into the UK from his US home on Tuesday.
Shortly afterwards, a relaxed-looking Charles was seen leaving his Clarence House residence in London for Sandringham, his country estate in eastern England.
The news sparked immediate speculation it could serve as a catalyst to heal the family tensions that have blighted the start of Charles's reign.
Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams, however, described the rift between Harry, also known as the Duke of Sussex, and the rest of the royal family as "very deep".
Harry has a particularly fractious relationship with brother William.
People expressed sympathy for William, who they noted now faced the double burden of maintaining his family life with official duties.
"He's got a hard job because his wife is poorly at the moment, so that's an added pressure on poor William, but I'm sure that he will cope," pensioner Sue Hazell told AFP outside Buckingham Palace, another of the king's London homes, on Tuesday.
Kate is expected to be out of action until at least March 31, her Kensington Palace office said.
Canadian tourist Sarah Paterson, said she said she was "1,000 percent" confident that William would be a good stand-in, adding: "I think he'll probably be king sooner than he hoped."
When will the Reserve Bank start cutting interest rates? - ABC News
When will the Reserve Bank start cutting interest rates?
By business reporter Michael Janda
In short: The Reserve Bank left interest rates on hold at 4.35 per cent but said it cannot rule out another rate rise, depending on economic data.
Economists and financial traders generally see no chance of another rate rise, with markets pricing in two cuts over the second half of this year.
What's next? The minutes from the this meeting will be released on Tuesday, February 20 and shed more light on the RBA board's discussions about rates.
The Reserve Bank board on Tuesday said "a further increase in interest rates cannot be ruled out", but economists and financial traders do not believe them.
"They're not ready to completely rule out a further rate increase, but I think most people would expect that they won't have to act on that," Westpac's chief economist Luci Ellis told The Business. Until October last year, Dr Ellis was the head of economics at the RBA.
Financial traders agree, with no hint of any rate rises from the current cash rate of 4.35 per cent factored into market pricing.
The latest rate cut odds, compiled by Bloomberg, imply a one-in-three chance that the Reserve Bank will cut interest rates in May, an 85 per cent chance it will happen by June and, if not, traders are certain there'll be a rate cut by August.
These prices do not represent exact odds — that certainty of one rate cut by August is skewed by the traders' pricing in the slim chance the RBA will cut more than once by then.
Nonetheless, traders have priced in more than two rate cuts before the end of this year.
That implies that traders either expect inflation to come down a lot faster than the RBA does, even after it cut its forecasts on Tuesday and/or that they think the RBA will start cutting interest rates before inflation falls below the top of the 2-3 per cent target range.
Bridging the transportation gap for young commuters in Sydney
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: Throughout south-western Sydney, the issue of transport inequality looms large, particularly impacting young commuters. Maddelyn Phillips, 17, from The Oaks, shared her concerns with ABC News about the limited public transport options in the Wollondilly Shire. With her family’s only vehicle being a petrol “guzzler”, Maddelyn, like many of her peers, uses her car as her primary mode of transportation.
The challenges become apparent when considering the considerable distances to the nearest train station, where passenger services contend with freight trains. Maddelyn describes public transport in the area as quite limited, emphasising the infrequency of buses and the unpredictable train services from the nearby Picton station.
The NSW parliamentary inquiry is investigating the public transport needs in Western Sydney, recognising the impending population boom. The need for increased investment in public transport infrastructure becomes crucial as the region copes with housing and transport concerns, aiming to accommodate about six million residents by 2040.
The crash in Buxton in September 2020, claiming the lives of five teenagers, including a friend of Maddelyn, has heightened concerns about young people’s safety and their reliance on private cars. Maddelyn expresses a growing fear of carpooling, reflecting on the need for alternative, safer transportation options for the youth.
On Monday, Ally Dench, a Wollondilly resident, was due to testify before the parliamentary inquiry, shedding light on the inadequacies of the public transport system. From her home in Theresa Park, Ally emphasised the lack of viable public transport options.
As the region experiences rapid growth, Wollondilly Council has repeatedly voiced concerns about the absence of clear plans for efficient public transport. Ally is apprehensive that this situation may exacerbate existing inequities, leading to a “mega” scale of disadvantage for the community.
In her submission to the inquiry, Ally urges the state government to reconsider its approach to assessing project feasibility, emphasising the importance of considering factors beyond economic viability. She advocates for a broader perspective that includes the impact on productivity and skills development, calling for enhanced “last mile” connectivity through feeder buses, cycling lanes, and pedestrian walkways.
The NSW government’s commitment to establish rapid bus services is a step in the right direction, but locals also advocate for more innovative solutions, such as expanding on-demand services. The focus should extend beyond immediate concerns, addressing the long-term impact on the younger generation.
Iran-backed Houthis launch three attacks in Red Sea, Gulf of Aden as tensions escalate, US military responds
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen on Thursday launched three separate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
Around 5 a.m., U.S. Central Command forces shot down a drone over the Gulf of Aden. There were no injuries.
Later Thursday, CENTCOM forces destroyed a Houthi explosive uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) in the Red Sea. U.S. forces identified the USV heading toward the international shipping lane and determined it presented an "imminent threat" to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region, CENTCOM said.
Later that afternoon, two anti-ship ballistic missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen toward a Liberian-flagged, Bermuda-owned cargo ship. The missiles landed in the water without hitting the ship. There were no injuries or damage reported to the vessel.
Iran-backed Houthi militants, stationed in Yemen, have for months been firing upon commercial vessels passing through the Red Sea. The militants say the attacks are in support of Palestinians killed in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. Thursday represented the 42nd, 43rd, and 44th such attacks since November 19th.
The latest strikes come just days after three U.S. soldiers were killed in Jordan.
The Biden administration has blamed the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias that includes the militant group Kataib Hezbollah.
Earlier this month, two U.S. Navy SEALs, went missing during a mission in the Red Sea and have since been declared dead.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday it's time to further disable Iran-backed militias like the Houthis that have struck at U.S. forces and ships in the Middle East. He said the U.S. is preparing to take significant action in response to the soldiers’ deaths.
For days the U.S. has hinted strikes are imminent. The threat of retaliation for Sunday's deaths has driven some militant groups to say they were stopping hostilities. But the latest strikes by Houthi rebels cast doubt on those claims.
"At this point, it's time to take away even more capability than we've taken in the past," Austin said Thursday in his first press conference since he was hospitalized on Jan. 1 due to complications from prostate cancer treatment.
Previous U.S. strikes have not deterred the attacks. Since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out in October, Iranian-backed militant groups have struck U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria at least 166 times with rockets, missiles, and one-way attack drones, drawing about a half-dozen U.S. counterstrikes on militant facilities in both countries. The U.S. military also has carried out airstrikes targeting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
While Iran has denied involvement, Austin said Thursday that "how much Iran knew or didn't know, we don't know. But it really doesn't matter because Iran sponsors these groups."
The Pentagon has the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the region, along with at least a half dozen other major U.S. warships, U.S. Air Force fighter jets and radar aircraft. It has already been regularly using those assets to conduct strikes and defend ships.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Wong signals possible restart to UNRWA aid after payments paused amid allegations staff involved in October 7 terror attack
Foreign Minister Penny Wong has signalled humanitarian aid to UNRWA could restart after payments were put on hold amid allegations several employees had links to the October 7 terror attack on Israel.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East on Friday said it had opened an investigation into claims from Israeli authorities 12 staff members were involved in the deadly assault.
Nine of the staff were sacked, one is dead and the UN is clarifying the identity of the remaining two.
In response, Australia alongside several other nations temporarily halted funding to the agency.
Ms Wong on Thursday addressed the controversy during a press conference alongside Defence Minister Richard Marles and their New Zealand counterparts in Melbourne following the ANZMIN meeting.
She did not offer a timeline for when funding could restart but stated why successive Australian governments had chosen to fund the agency since 1951.
“It is because of the only organisation which delivers the sort of assistance and substantive support into the occupied Palestinian territories within the international system. That is the reality,” she said.
“Can I also remind people what is happening in Gaza at the moment."
Ms Wong pointed to UN reports which showed 400,000 Gazans were “starving” an additional million at risk of starvation in an attempt to explain why the government had funded the organisation.
“More than 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering within UNRWA facilities. 3000 of the workers for the association are working on the humanitarian response in the most trying of conditions.
"That is the context in which Australia and Australians provide humanitarian assistance to UNRWA.”
Ms Wong reiterated the allegations made against the 12 employees at UNRWA were “deeply concerning” and reaffirmed their need to be thoroughly investigated.
“We have made clear they need to be thoroughly investigated and those responsible need to be held to account and I have directed, this week, the Australian humanitarian coordinator to lead urgent work with like-minded partners as well as UNRWA on these and other matters,” she said.
“But I think it is important that we remember why it is that previous governments have funded this organisation.
“But also the scale of the humanitarian crisis in the absence of any alternatives, if we are serious about trying to ensure that fewer children are starving. That is what we are faced with.”
Ms Wong has come under fire in recent days both for the temporary pause in the $6 million aid payment promised to the agency and the original decision to fund UNRWA.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton told 2GB’s Ray Hadley on Thursday he believed Ms Wong’s position was “untenable” if it was demonstrated she had advice the money could have been used in support of Hamas terrorists.
A battle is brewing over public school funding. Here's what's happening and  what could come next - ABC News
A battle is brewing over public school funding. Here's what's happening and what could come next
The level of funding for public schools has been a point of contention for a long time. 
Academic results have been falling, inequality entrenching and teacher shortages growing.
Then on Wednesday it was announced the federal government had reached an in-principle agreement with Western Australia which they said would see the state's public schools 'fully funded' by 2026.
It was quickly rejected by other states and territories, which want the Commonwealth to double its offer, setting up a political showdown.
Here's what's going on and what could happen next.
Why is this significant?
First, some background.
The Commonwealth has been negotiating a new school funding agreement with the states and territories, and the WA agreement was the first of eight that need to be struck by the end of the year.
It's also worth flagging what 'fully funded' means.
In this context, it's the amount set out by the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) — an estimate of how much funding a school needs to meet students' needs. It was recommended by the Gonski review more than a decade ago.
The Coalition's Gonski 2.0 reforms required states to fund public schools at 75 per cent of the SRS on top of the feds' 20 per cent, leaving a 5 per cent gap.
Glenn Savage, an associate professor in education policy at the University of Melbourne, says it's important to understand the SRS itself doesn't fund schools directly.
"All the money … basically goes into a blender and then is redistributed to schools using a state-based model," he says.
Mr Savage also says it's not just about how much funding a state has, it's also about what they do with it.
"We need to be really careful that money is being targeted towards things likely to make a positive difference and that money is being targeted to those who need it the most," he says.
Man and woman hit and killed by freight train at Berowra Railway Station |  Herald Sun
Two people die after being hit by freight train at Berowra Railway Station in Sydney's north
Police have been told the woman was being assisted off the train tracks by the man.(ABC News)
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Two people have died after being hit by a freight train in Sydney's north overnight.
Police said a man in his 20s was assisting a woman in her 30s off the tracks before they were struck by the train at Berowra Railway Station about midnight.
Police sources have told the ABC the pair was known to each other and had an argument on the platform prior to the accident.
It is believed the man threw something belonging to the woman onto the tracks before she jumped down off the platform to retrieve it.
The man then saw the oncoming train and jumped onto the tracks to save her.
NSW Ambulance paramedics treated the pair but they died at the scene.
They have not been formally identified.
A crime scene has been established and police investigations into the incident are continuing.
All rail services going through Berowra Station are running as normal.
A report will be prepared for the coroner.
Son of former NSW premier sentenced for fabricating evidence that put  innocent man in jail : r/nswpolice
Son of former NSW premier sentenced for fabricating evidence that put innocent man in jail
The disgraced police officer son of former senator and NSW premier Kristina Keneally has avoided jail time for fabricating evidence that put an innocent man behind bars.
Daniel Keneally, 25, appeared to hyperventilate after he was handed 15-month intensive correction order on Thursday and sentenced to serve 200 hours of community service.
"This is a crime against public justice," Magistrate Rodney Brender told Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court.
Keneally was convicted last year after the court found he falsely claimed a man threatened police during a phone call to Newtown Police Station in February 2021.
The court heard that the caller, Luke Moore, rang to complain about a strip search.
But in a formal statement, Keneally falsely quoted Mr Moore as saying he was coming for a Goulburn detective "when he least expects it" and wanted him "off the planet", saying the policeman was "dead" and "good as gone".
In October, Keneally was charged with one count of fabricating evidence with intent to mislead a judicial tribunal, an offence carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years behind bars.
He denied the charge, telling the court he might have accidentally mixed up comments Mr Moore made on a website with his recollection of the phone conversation.
Keneally insisted he did not purposely include false material in his statement, telling the court he was tired and struggling to cope with his job.
But the magistrate rejected Keneally's version of events and found him guilty in November.
The magistrate said Keneally, who is no longer a police officer, had lost his career and had been publicly disgraced.
Outside court, Keneally's lawyer, Paul McGirr, said his client would still proceed with an appeal.
Germany may be drawn into war if Russia wins, says Ukrainian leader
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: Germany could be drawn into another world war if Russia wins its war, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky says. 
Zelensky, 46, appeared on a German talk show to lobby Berlin into giving his nation’s army long-range Taurus missiles, and praised leader Olaf Scholz for recognising that Russia was “drawing closer”.
“My impression is that the chancellor (Scholz) has understood a few things better: that Putin is not just a name, but a threat, and not only for Ukraine,” Zelensky said. 
“I think the chancellor understands that there is such a risk (of a Russian attack on NATO). And that certainly means the Third World War.' 
The Ukrainian leader said he hoped that Berlin would soon change its tune and begin handing over Taurus cruise missiles, which can travel at least 300 miles, hinting that he knew Scholz was not personally blocking their delivery. 
'I’m just disappointed that the people in today’s world tend to be pragmatic and don’t step in right away when there is one challenge or another.'
Zelensky also admitted that he was worried about US support for Ukraine if Donald Trump won the next election.
While Ukraine is scared that Trump would force Ukraine to agree to a bad deal with Russia to end the conflict, Zelensky said that he was confident that Republicans and Democrats understood the gravity of the conflict.
“It’s not likely that US policy depends on a single person,” he said.
GOP lawmakers call on Biden to retaliate on Iran after 3 US troops killed  in drone attack
Biden weighs up response to drone attack as Republicans call for blood
US President Biden is “looking at options” in response to an attack on a US base in Jordan that killed three soldiers.
The drone that killed the soldiers and injured 40 at the Tower 22 base in Jordan on Sunday may have been mistaken for an US drone, according to reports.
Two officials, who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to comment, said a US drone was returning to base at the same an enemy drone was flying nearby at a low altitude. As a result, there was no effort to shoot down the enemy drone, they said.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said that President Biden has pinned blame on Iran-backed forces.
“We are not looking for a war with Iran, we are not looking to escalate the conflict in the region," Kirby told US media.
“Obviously, these attacks keep coming. We'll keep looking at the options,” he added.
“I can't speak for the supreme leader or what he wants or he doesn't want. I can tell you what we want. What we want is a stable, secure, prosperous Middle East, and we want these attacks to stop," he said.
Iran has denied any involvement in the attack.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani lambasted what he called “baseless accusations” that he said were part of a “conspiracy of those who see their interests in dragging America into a new battle”.
He insisted that “the Islamic Republic of Iran does not welcome the expansion of conflict in the region”, adding that Tehran “is not involved in the decisions of the resistance groups” when it comes to how they choose to “defend Palestinians or their own countries”.
Earlier, a spokesman for Iran's UN mission claimed that “the conflict has been initiated by the US military against resistance groups in Iraq and Syria, and such operations are reciprocal between them”.
He added that Iran had “nothing to do with the attacks in question”.
Domestically, Biden is also under pressure from the Republican Party.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton called for military action, echoing the sentiment of many conservative Republican politicians.
“The only answer to these attacks must be devastating military retaliation against Iran’s terrorist forces, both in Iran and across the Middle East,” he said. 
The senator is a longtime supporter of war with Iran.
Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP – Parliament of Australia
Tax reforms will help all taxpayers, MP insists
The Federal government’s proposed tax cuts are designed to ease the cost of living of all Australians, according to a Sydney-based member of parliament. 
Matt Thistlethwaite, the Member for Kingsford Smith, says the proposed tax reforms, due to take effect from July 1, will provide relief for households across the income spectrum.
Acknowledging the challenges faced by many community members, Mr Thistlethwaite highlights the government’s commitment to addressing the issue of bracket creep. This phenomenon, where individuals are pushed into higher tax brackets due to inflation and increasing wages, will be curtailed under the proposed reforms. 
In conjunction with the tax cuts, the government plans to increase the Medicare levy low-income threshold for the 2023-24 financial year. Mr Thistlethwaite believes this adjustment will particularly benefit individuals with lower incomes, either reducing their Medicare levies or exempting them altogether. 
Mr Thistlethwaite asserts that by prioritising relief for “middle Australia” taxpayers and addressing household budget pressures, the government aims to foster a future where economic benefits are shared more equitably.
The plan includes initiatives to stimulate wage growth, control inflation and ensure fair prices for consumers. 
“Cutting taxes for middle Australia is a central part of our economic plan – along with getting wages moving again, bringing inflation under control, driving fairer prices for Australian consumers and providing important cost of living relief such as energy bill relief, cheaper medicines, higher income support payments, and the biggest boost to rent assistance in 30 years,” he said.
Parramatta Mayor Pierre Esber pays tribute to late billionaire developer Lang Walker
PARRAMATTA City Council has paid tribute to the contribution and lasting legacy of billionaire property developer Lang Walker.
The 78-year-old co-founder of Walker Corporation died on Saturday in his Woolloomooloo, Sydney, home surrounded by family.
Mr Walker co-founded a small firm with his father 60 years ago which became Walker Corporation.
As head of Walker Corporation, he helped develop places where others only saw challenges, including Broadway Shopping Centre, Woolloomooloo Wharf, King Street Wharf and
the $3 billion Parramatta Square development which transformed Parramatta CBD.
 Parramatta Lord Mayor Pierre Esber said: “Lang Walker understood the potential of Parramatta to be a major global city before most others.
“Parramatta Square is one of his many legacies to Parramatta and Western Sydney. This world-class civic and commercial precinct is now home to more than 24,000 workers and is a  magnet for government and industry leaders to move their Sydney offices to Parramatta.
“I used to call him ‘Mr Nike’, because he had a way to ‘Just Do It’. That ability has left a lasting imprint on our city’s skyline.”
Fire and Rescue NSW firefighters recognised in Australia Day honour roll -  NSW - Fire and Rescue NSW
Four veteran NSW firefighters named in NSW Australia Day honours list  
Four veteran firefighters have been honoured with Australian Fire Service Medals (AFSMs) for their extraordinary leadership skills and dedication as part of NSW Australia Day Awards honours.
The AFSM recognises firefighters who have regularly performed above and beyond expectations during their distinguished careers with Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW).
FRNSW Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell praised the four officers for their tremendous service to date.
“These firefighters regularly go above and beyond the expectations of the job and they each have made our organisation better and improved our ability to serve the community.
“I would like to express my pride in the example they’re setting for others within FRNSW, it’s truly exceptional.”
Honoured are:
• Assistant Commissioner for Operational Capability, David John Lewis who joined the FRNSW more than 34 years ago. He has extensive experience as a front-line incident commander, dealing with fires, hazardous materials (HAZMAT) emergencies, road crashes and major bushfire crises in local, national and international disaster zones such as the 2009 Samoan Tsunami, the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and the 2015 Vanuatu Cyclone disaster:
• Coffs Harbour Station Officer Sally Jane Foote: she remains the second-longest serving female firefighter in FRNSW ranks (more than 35 years) and was the first female firefighter to be promoted to the rank of Station Officer. She served during emergencies such as Cyclone Debbie in 2017; the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires and the 2021-22 NSW Northern Rivers floods;
• Wyong Fire Station Captain Jamie Grant Loader: he began his FRNSW career more than 21 years ago. His consistently strong leadership skills in areas such as community prevention, risk reduction, planning and engagement resulted in numerous State and National Firefighting Championship successes for the Wyong Fire and Rescue crew;
• Gosford Senior Firefighter John Columba McGarvey: now in his 18th year as a FRNSW firefighter, 
He has constantly demonstrated a shared ideology of community, diversity, and mental health awareness and is committed to the role firefighters play with assisting the community with fire prevention. He was a finalist in the 2018 Commissioner’s Safety Awards for excellence in Workplace Health and Safety and was also a finalist in the Rotary NSW and ACT Emergency Services Community Awards in the category of Emergency Service Officer of the Year.
Firefighters concerned about smoke alarm complacency - VIDEO - Tamworth -  Fire and Rescue NSW
Firefighters worried about smoke alarm complacency after Tamworth music festival
Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) firefighters conducting caravan safety inspections during the Tamworth Country Music Festival have expressed concern at the level of complacency around working smoke alarms.
In six days, local FRNSW crews visited parks in Tamworth’s riverside camping area, inspecting caravan and campervan smoke alarms and providing fire safety advice. They visited more than 160 caravans and recreational vehicles, replacing 75 smoke alarms. They also replaced 20 smoke alarm batteries that were not working or missing.
FRNSW Zone Commander Tom Cooper was concerned about the level of complacency around caravan smoke alarms.
“Almost half the caravans we visited did not have a working smoke alarm,” Superintendent Cooper explained, “That’s disturbing, a working smoke alarm may be the only thing that saves the lives of you and your loved ones in the event of a fire.”
“In a few cases where the batteries were missing, the campers told our firefighters they’d removed them because cooking would often set off the alarms,” Superintendent Cooper said.
“The beeping might be annoying, but if your alarm’s not working, it can’t save you.
“Caravanners could consider purchasing photo-electric smoke alarms which aren’t as sensitive to cooking and require smoke to break a beam to activate. 
“Other smoke alarms we encountered were well past their 10-year shelf-life and had to be replaced.
Legislation requires a working smoke alarm to be fitted to every caravan and another placed in any annex used as a sleeping area.
The fire crews also inspected gas cooking facilities and LPG cylinders on board the vans.
“We urge everyone to include smoke alarm checks when preparing their caravans and RV’s," Supt Cooper said.


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