All regional school buses will have seatbelts four years ahead of schedule, thanks to a $29 million school bus seatbelt blitz in the NSW budget.
Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, said the Coffs Harbour electorate would have a total of 148 buses fitted with seatbelts as part of the commitment.
“This is an important fund that will make sure our kids get to and from school safely,” Mr Fraser said.
Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said the installation of seatbelts on the rural and regional bus fleet would be fast tracked to ensure the safety of regional public transport.
“We are fast tracking seatbelts on regional school buses, making sure all regional students can travel on buses with seatbelts by December 2019 – four years ahead of schedule,” Mr Constance said.
“This is something our communities have been crying out for and I’m committed to making sure kids across the state can travel to school safely.”
Funding in the 2017-18 NSW budget means all buses travelling on dedicated regional school routes will have seatbelts by December 2019, ahead of the current schedule of 2023.
All 2,800 rural and regional buses will have seatbelts by December 2021 with the replacement of 415 buses and retrofitting 1,937 existing buses, on top of the 515 buses that have already been replaced.
23 June 2017
For media comment contact Andrew Fraser on 6652 6500 or 0427 241 522
Greater emissions reductions and delivering on the Paris climate agreement are now “the only opportunity” to save coral reefs the world over from decline, with local responses no longer sufficient, a report by Unesco has found.
The first global scientific assessment of the impacts of climate change on the 29 world heritage-listed coral reefs, published on Saturday, found that the frequency, intensity and duration of heat-stress events had worsened with increasing global warming, with massive consequences for the 29 world heritage sites.
Analysis of recent studies and newly-developed data from the US national ocean and atmospheric administration (NOAA) coral-reef watch showed that 13 of the 29 listed reefs had been exposed to levels of heat stress that cause coral bleaching, on average more than twice per decade from 1985 to 2013.
Bleaching had occurred more frequently in recent years than in decades prior, with coral mortality during the third global bleaching event from mid-2014 to mid-2017 “among the worst ever recorded”. Twenty-one listed sites had suffered severe and/or repeated heat stress in the last three years.
Compounding the devastating impact of bleaching – which can take coral communities at least 15 to 25 years to recover from – were more frequent and more severe extreme weather events, increasing ocean acidification, and pollution.
The Great Barrier Reef, “one of the world’s most iconic coral reef systems” and among four of the total 29 listed located in Australia, had been “seriously affected” by back-to-back severe bleaching events this year and last, despite considerable investment in efforts to build resilience.
Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council centre of excellence for coral reef studies in Townsville, provided an analysis of bleaching records for the report. “It basically makes the point that everywhere is bleaching,” he said. “It’s certainly not a phenomenon only on the Great Barrier Reef.”
The Unesco report found that local efforts to increase reefs’ resilience “remain necessary but are no longer sufficient” without complementary national and international efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – the most ambitious target set by the Paris agreement, and understood to be the maximum possible to secure coral reefs’ long-term survival.
“We need all of the above,” said Jon Day, a former director with the Great Barrier marine park authority, now at James Cook University. “We can’t just assume local responses are enough, and they must be augmented by global’s efforts too.”
He said while the world heritage convention aimed to “transmit the world heritage values” of listed sites for future generations, a natural system would inevitably change with time. “The question is what is acceptable change, and the reported levels of coral bleaching and coral mortality can hardly be considered by anyone to be acceptable.”
Reducing emissions so that they peak around 2040 and then decline would reduce that number of affected sites to 14 (48%), and allow an extra 12 years, on average, for them to recover.
Hughes said the prospects of coral reefs’ long-term survival was at a crossroads, with the worst-case scenario able to be avoided only “if we quickly adopt the 1.5C target”.
“1.5C or 2C degrees won’t be a particularly comfortable place for reefs – they will still see quite regular bleaching and they will be different to how they were 15 or 20 years ago – but they will be able to survive.”
He said he was optimistic about reefs’ prospects, given that the business-as-usual path was looking “increasingly unlikely” as cities and states the world over moved to exceed federal or commonwealth commitments to curbing emissions.
A draft decision prepared by Unesco, to be addressed by the world heritage committee at its meeting in Krakow in Poland from 2 to 12 July, had stated the report’s findings were of “utmost concern”.
But Day said it was “very disappointing” that the draft decision only committed to further studies at this stage: “How much evidence do they need?”
Trump questions impartiality of Russia investigation chief Robert Mueller
Trump says Mueller, a former FBI director, is ‘good friends’ with James Comey and that his Russia investigation staff ‘are all Hillary Clinton supporters’
Donald Trump has questioned the impartiality of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the US election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
In an interview with Fox News aired Friday morning, Trump argued that Mueller, a former FBI director, is “good friends” with James Comey, Mueller’s successor at the spy agency whom Trump fired on 9 May. Trump later acknowledged he took this step with the Russia investigation in mind.
Trump also said that some of the staffers that Mueller has hired for his investigation “are all Hillary Clinton supporters”. US news reports say some of these staffers have made campaign contributions to Democratic candidates.
Asked point blank if Mueller should recuse himself from the Russia investigation, Trump said: “Well, he’s very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome. But he’s also – we’re going to have to see.”
Trump added: “I mean we’re going to have to see in terms – look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey.”
Trump did say, however, that Mueller is an “honorable man”.
Trump also claimed he had always told a “straight story” about whether he recorded his private conversations with Comey.
He repeated his statement from Thursday that he had never made “tapes” of their conversations – despite an earlier menacing tweet and comments suggesting he might have – but added that when Comey “found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed”.
Asked separately on Fox News whether Trump was trying to intimidate Comey with the May tweet, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said: “No, quite the opposite. I think the president made it very clear that he wanted the truth to come out, he wanted everyone to be honest about this and he wanted to get to the bottom of it and I think he succeeded in doing that.”
He added: “The reality is that he wanted to make sure that the truth came out and by talking about something like tapes made people have to – made Comey in particular think to himself, ‘I better be honest, I better tell the truth about the circumstances regarding the situation.’”
Trump has disputed Comey’s assertion that Trump asked the FBI director for a pledge of loyalty during a meeting. When news of Comey’s account broke, Trump tweeted that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
AFP and the Associated Press contributed to this report
Amid the gilded tower blocks, luxury hotels and high-end golf clubs of Donald Trump’s vast global property portfolio is a much smaller holding that looks more than a little out of place.
It’s a quarter-acre lot of overgrown woodland in one of Florida’s poorest counties that the US president has owned and paid property taxes on since 2005 – having bought it for $1 from a woman who owned a photographic studio specialising in adult lingerie shoots.
The plot brings in no income, has no roads, pavement or immediate prospect for development, and provides an environment that is friendly only to the swarms of mosquitoes that thrive in the humidity of the scorching Florida summer.
Trump’s interest in such a tiny and inaccessible plot of land in Sebring, 120 miles from the garish surroundings of his coastal Mar-a-Lago palace in Palm Beach, is a mystery to those familiar with the area.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” said Raymond MacIntyre, property appraiser for Highlands County, a region of central Florida popular with retirees and prime growing territory for the orange groves of the state’s struggling citrus industry.
“Like so many of these plots of land in our county, you need a Jeep, a helicopter or a parachute just to get to it. But the property tax bill gets sent to Trump Tower in New York every year, and every year the taxes get paid.”
Trump’s small parcel of land, for which records show he paid $69.87 in taxes in 2016, is one of hundreds of similarly sized and individually owned lots in an area west of Sebring’s Lake Jackson known as Orange Blossom Estates.
In the late 1960s, a company called Land Services Sebring acquired large tracts of county land and sold subdivisions with the intention of developing them into homesteads. Florida’s era of land speculation was at its peak, McIntyre says, and developers were clamouring for a piece of the action.
The company, however, became mired in a number of lawsuits and eventually folded, leaving landowners with effectively worthless lots. Some were privately developed but many more, including the majority of those in the neighborhood where the Trump lot is located, remain untouched. County records list thousands of single undeveloped plots that have been vacant for decades.
New laws now require developers to provide infrastructure such as roads, sewage and drainage before they can split and sell lots. But the regulations are too late for those whose land is accessible only by mud tracks, or in many cases not at all.
“For many of these land owners, they’ll pay more in property taxes in 15 years than the land is actually worth,” McIntyre says.
All of which makes Trump’s interest in the land, valued at only $4,280 according to the county roll, all the more curious. There are no natural resources such as gas or oil anywhere close, the county’s zoning department says. There is a nearby golf course, but it is municipally owned and not available for development. Furthermore, there are environmental restrictions on the land, which features a protected, endemic Florida grass called cut-throat, which would place further obstacles in the way of any new development.
“It’s beautiful, peaceful and quiet around here just the way it is,” said Clovena Minkah, Trump’s “next-door neighbour” who has lived there for 20 years and whose house occupies the only developed lot in the immediate vicinity.
“The deer sometimes come and sit in the yard and it only gets noisy when the kids come through on their ATVs [all-terrain vehicles] at night. And the track to my house floods every time it rains. I’ve been trying to get the county to fix that for years.”
The circumstances of Trump’s acquisition of the land, meanwhile, are equally as bewildering as his reasons for maintaining it for more than a decade. It was effectively gifted to him for $1 in July 2005 by a woman named Nazeema Carrico, who was listed in Palm Beach County records as the owner of a photographic studio specialising in adult lingerie shoots.
Carrico owned the land for only a few weeks, having bought it in June 2005 for $3,300 from a man in Ohio, who died earlier this year.
Since her divorce in 2015, Carrico, 41, now goes by the name of Nazeema Moonab and lives in a $550,000 mansion in Covington, Georgia. Records show that members of her family continue to own hundreds of small, undeveloped plots of land in Highlands County, but Carrico surrendered her own joint ownership in about 50 more to her former husband as part of a divorce settlement.
Carrico did not return messages from the Guardian seeking comment and removed her Facebook and Instagram profiles the same day the requests were made. A cousin of Carrico’s in Tamarac, South Florida, denied knowing anything about her, and two other close relatives reached by telephone elsewhere in the state hung up on the calls.
“I wouldn’t have anything to say to him anyway,” said Salmeron, who lives in South Florida and admits she has never visited the plot of land she owns.
“I bought it as a land investment, not for development, but it never worked out. I’m surprised that Trump would also be an owner.”
The Trump Organization, which manages Trump’s portfolio of real estate holdings, did not respond to requests for comment.
The UK election shows that young people can once again be a force in politics. After years of being dismissed as apathetic and disengaged (and treated accordingly), young voters turned out in big numbers. Their very strong split towards Labour played a pivotal role in the surprisingly poor showing of Theresa May’s Conservative government.
Post-poll surveys suggest young people voted overwhelmingly for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. According to the YouGov poll, more than 60% of under-30s voted Labour compared to 20% for the Conservatives. This polarity was reversed at the other end of the age spectrum: almost 70% of people aged over 70 voted Conservative.
Of course the young have always leant to the left, but the gap has increased starkly over time. Young UK voters have moved strongly towards Labour since the 2010 election, and those over 65 increasingly favour the Conservatives.
And young people will inherit sizable government debts and a pension and social care system many regard as unstainable given the ageing population.
Australia’s young are also falling behind
These issues would seem eerily familiar to Australian politicians.
Grattan Institute’s 2014 report The Wealth of Generations documented a range of economic pressures on young Australians. Over the past decade, older households captured most of the growth in Australia’s wealth. Households aged between 65 to 74 are on average $400,000 richer than households of the same age 10 years ago. In contrast, the wealth of households under 35 has barely increased over that period.
In contrast to their British counterparts, young Australians have increased their incomes over the past decade, but there are emerging risks with stagnating wages and cuts to penalty rates.
And young Australians are contributing more to the costs of their university education while governments allocate a bigger proportion of tax revenues to older people. Rising government debt will also drag on the prosperity of the next generation.
Is Australia facing a youthquake?
There are some signs young people in Australia are becoming more politically engaged. Around 70% of 18 years olds voted in the 2016 election, up from 50% in 2013. And the number of 18-24 year olds not enrolled fell from 400,000 to 250,000 over the same period. Participation rates among the young, however, are still well below the national average of 95%.
The youth vote in Australia is skewed, but not nearly as far as the split at the 2017 UK election. According to our analysis of the Australian Election Study, Australian voters under the age of 34 are seven percentage points less likely to vote for the Coalition and seven percentage points more likely to vote for the Greens than the national average.
The youth vote for the Coalition and the Labor party was pretty similar in 2013, but about 8% of the youth vote shifted from minor parties to the Greens. These are House of Representatives results – the Senate vote was similar.
The UK election result should serve as a warning to Australian governments. Many young people feel let down by current government policies. Politicians will dismiss these concerns at their peril. Pushed too far, young people can become a political force to be reckoned with.
John Daley is CEO and Danielle Wood is Australian Perspectives Fellow at the Grattan Institute.
As billions in black money from China continues to flood into property markets, the global Financial Action Task Force has put Australia on a watch-list for failing to comply with money laundering and terrorism financing reforms. Canberra has been dragging the chain for nine years while the powerful lawyers, accountants and real estate lobby groups keep successive governments mired in a consultation process.
The Samuel Beckett classic, Waiting for Godot, features a couple of weary old guys Vladimir and Estragon waiting for another guy called Godot to arrive. Godot never arrives. The play finishes as the two protagonists contemplate hanging themselves.
As we contacted the Department of Justice again last week we were struck by the parallels with the always-impending though never-arriving Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing legislation (AML-CTF).
These are laws which were to have been introduced nine years ago but instead have been bogged down in a marathon of “reviews”, “stakeholder engagement”, “industry consultation”, “papers”, “studies” and “submissions”
Banks, bullion dealers and casinos were captured by the first tranche of the legislation way back in 2006 but as any self-respecting money-launder knows, if you are keen to launder some money, or perhaps finance a spot of terror, you can still do it through lawyers, accountants or real estate agents. These sectors are yet to be captured by the Godotesque second tranche of the legislation.
Besides tightening the screws on launderers and financiers of terrorism, the importance of these laws are that they could take steam out of the property market and address, albeit only in part, the crisis in affordability for first home buyers.
When asked last week how the process was coming along, since the laws were supposed to have been enacted in 2008, the response from the office of the Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, was:
“A cost/benefit analysis of extending AML/CTF regulation to certain non-financial business (lawyers, conveyancers, accountants, real estate agents, trust and company service providers and high-value dealers) is well progressed and will be completed by July this year.
“The outcome of the cost-benefit analysis will inform the Government’s decision on the regulation of tranche two entities under the AML/CTF Act.”
In Waiting for Godot, Vladimir has to keep shuffling off to urinate when he starts laughing at his own jokes. This play however only runs for two acts. If Vladimir were a player in Australia’s money-laundering tragicomedy – assuming a constant rate of two urinations per hour – he would have urinated at least 153,792 times by now.
It would not only be Vladimir, and money laundering authority AUSTRAC, holding on either. When asked how Australia’s compliance with international standards was coming along, the communications officer for the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Alexandra Wijmenga-Daniel, told michaelwest.com.au:
“Following its mutual evaluation, Australia was placed on enhanced follow-up and is reporting back to the FATF on an annual basis concerning the progress it has made to address the deficiencies identified in its mutual evaluation report.”
In the classroom of international compliance, this is the equivalent of nose-in-the-corner-at-the-back-of-the-classroom status. “Enhanced follow-up” and “deficiencies”.
The reason the process has meandered on for so long is clearly because the stakeholders involved: the accountants, lawyers and real estate lobbies, don’t want it to happen.
And now government is in a bind. If it stems the flow of Chinese capital it might prick the property bubble.
Chinese money is not alone in driving up prices but it is a factor. On Credit Suisse numbers, some $50 billion of Chinese capital has flooded the Australian property markets, mostly in Melbourne and Sydney, over the past eight years.
How much is black money? We don’t know but the Chinese are only permitted to take $US50,000 out of the country, so the rest, probably the majority of money landing here, is black money.
Introducing the second tranche of the AML-CTF legislation is no silver bullet which will suddenly make houses affordable for first home buyers. Though, along with reform to negative gearing on established homes, it would certainly help.
It is also important because the more the property bubble inflates, the more damaging will be the economic aftermath.
Meanwhile, other measures to address the first-home-buyer crisis, such as stamp duty relief (and a stamp duty surcharge for foreign buyers) are a step in the right direction though tinkering around the edges and arguably incentivising young buyers to hop into an overheated market.
In NSW, the measures run so close to the price threshold that they constitute an incentive to leave the city and go elsewhere to buy a house. The stamp duty measures are far better than cash hand-outs though, which only serve to drive up prices and put cash into the arms of agents and property developers.
Apprehensive of political reprisal, the money laundering agency AUSTRAC has been reliably mute on the failure of governments to comply with international standards. And even though the latest timeframe for action is the completion of a cost-benefit analysis by next month, the commitment to do anything about it remains up in the air, as usual. We remain waiting.
As the second and final act of Waiting for Godot closes, Vladimir and Estragon talk about hanging themselves. But when they conduct a strategic analysis of the strength of Estragon’s belt, which they intend to use as a noose, it breaks and Estragon’s trousers fall down.
STATEMENT BY FATF
Following its mutual evaluation, Australia was placed on enhanced follow-up and is reporting back to the FATF on an annual basis concerning the progress it has made to address the deficiencies identified in its mutual evaluation report. Follow-up reports are not published unless the country has made sufficient progress to justify a re-rating of its compliance with FATF Standards.
The FATF expects countries to have satisfactorily addressed most, if not all, of their technical compliance deficiencies by the end of the 3rd year after their mutual evaluation report has been adopted. Australia would be expected to have reached this stage by June 2018.
In addition to the follow up reports each country is subject to, that consider changes to laws and regulations (technical compliance), five years after the mutual evaluation report, all countries are assessed against the actions they have taken to improve the effectiveness of their measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. This 5-year follow up assessment looks specifically at actions taken by a country to address the high-risk areas and priority actions identified in the mutual evaluation report.