NATO chief warns Ukraine war could last years, says world must not let up support
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney – M E TIMES Int’l: The war in Ukraine could last for years, the head of NATO says, calling for steadfast support from Ukraine's allies as Russian forces battle for territory in the country's east.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said supplying state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops would boost the chance of freeing its eastern region of Donbas from Russian control, Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported.
After failing to take the capital Kyiv early on in the war, Russian forces have focused efforts on trying to take complete control of the Donbas, parts of which were already held by Russian-backed separatists before the February 24 invasion.
"We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine," Mr Stoltenberg was quoted as saying.
"Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices."
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited Kyiv on Friday with an offer of training for Ukrainian forces, also said on Saturday it was important Britain provide support for the long haul, warning of a risk of "Ukraine fatigue" as the war drags on.
In an opinion piece in London's Sunday Times, Mr Johnson said this meant ensuring "Ukraine receives weapons, equipment, ammunition and training more rapidly than the invader".
It comes as the new British army chief told troops the UK must be "ready to fight" wars in Europe.
General Sir Patrick Sanders told British troops, according to the i newspaper on Sunday: "I am the first Chief of the General Staff since 1941 to take command of the Army in the shadow of a land war in Europe involving a continental power."
Dan Tehan pleads with Anthony Albanese to visit Sri Lanka to address refugee concerns amid humanitarian and economic crisis
Shadow Immigration Minister Dan Tehan has urged Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to visit Sri Lanka to address the humanitarian crisis in the country in hopes of reducing the number of asylum seekers making the dangerous journey to Australia.
Border Force and Sri Lankan authorities have intercepted at least four boats of refugees bound for Australia following Labor's win at the Federal Election almost one month ago.
Dozens of asylum seekers on one vessel have since been returned to Sri Lanka over the weekend where they revealed they were told by smugglers they would be welcomed by the newly-elected government.
"We were told that there is a new refugee-friendly government elected and we would not be sent back,” Meenu Mekala told The Australian.
“It was such a hard journey we made … I would not have taken it had I known that we would be sent back like this.”
Mr Tehan told local media he was not surprised by the words from people smugglers who would "do and say anything" to get money to fund their "evil trade".
He suggested Mr Albanese should stop by Sri Lanka on his trip to Europe for the NATO security summit after the nation's leader called for assistance from Australia.
"As a matter of fact, reading in the paper on Sunday, that Prime Minister Albanese looks like he will be heading to Europe – well he’ll be flying over Sri Lanka so he should stop and talk to the government and offer the help and the assistance they need to help with the humanitarian crisis that they are facing," he told Peter Stefanovic.
Over the weekend, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Rail Wickremesinghe asked the Australian government for aid such as medicine, food and even fertiliser as stocks diminish during the political and economic crisis.
The government has announced it will provide $50 million to support Sri Lanka amid its worst economic crisis in 70 years.
"There’s no reason why we can’t be working with other countries to help and support this humanitarian crisis," Mr Tehan said.
"We need to do it because we don’t want to see the people smugglers plying their evil trade.
"But also geo strategic competition in the Indian ocean is as fierce as what it is in the pacific ocean and we need to be helping and supporting Sri Lanka at this time."
The shadow Immigration Minister was then asked by Stefanovic whether he would support a refugee intake increase from Sri Lanka amid the crisis.
He stressed it was more important to begin dialogue with the government to understand what the problems and their needs were.
Mr Tehan then suggested it would be beneficial to see Foreign Minister Penny Wong or Immigration Minister Andrew Giles fly to the unstable nation but believes it was ultimately Mr Albanese who needed to make the trip.
"We’re not the government. What I’m trying to do is trying to provide some helpful suggestions," he said.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil reportedly arrived in Sri Lanka on Monday.
Mr Tehan said Australians do not want to see a return to the horrific scenes of capsized boats and bodies of refugees floating in the ocean.
Stefanovic then questioned whether the Biloela family being granted bridging visas to remain in Australia had funnelled through to Sri Lanka and enticed more asylum seekers to make the journey across the Indian Ocean.
"The last thing we want to see in this country is a return to what we saw in a previous Labor government.
"We don’t want to see children again in detention in their thousands. We don’t want to see those deaths at sea."
The NSW Electric Vehicle Strategy is the biggest EV plan in Australia
Electric Vehicle (EV) drivers will benefit from a further $38 million in charging infrastructure announced as part of the 2022-23 NSW Budget to accelerate the EV revolution across NSW.
Treasurer and Minister for Energy Matt Kean said the additional funding increases the State’s EV investment to $633 million under the NSW Electric Vehicle Strategy.
“Rolling out extra chargers will allow more EV drivers to benefit from their cheaper running costs and a cleaner, quieter and more sustainable road network,” Mr Kean said.
“You’ll never be far from a charger on our major highways, in regional destinations, apartment buildings and on kerbsides in metropolitan areas with limited off-street parking.”
The funding will leverage significant private sector investment to service growing demand. It includes:
• $10 million to co-fund 500 kerbside charge points to provide on-street charging in residential streets where private off-street parking is limited.
• $10 million to co-fund around 125 medium and large apartment buildings with more than 100 car parking spaces to make EV charging electrical upgrades.
• $18 million for more EV fast charging grants to speed up the rollout of stations. It will also increase the number of charging points – from the current four to at least eight – at charging stations located in high density urban areas.
“This funding will help communities stay connected and help holidaymakers hit the road to enjoy weekend trips as NSW motorists gear up for the next era of driving,” Mr Kean said.
The NSW Electric Vehicle Strategy is the biggest EV plan in Australia.
Funding boost for revolutionary new Institutes of Applied Technology
More than 26,000 students exploring careers in critical industries will benefit from an additional $108.5 million over four years for the NSW Government’s two new TAFE NSW Institutes of Applied Technology (IAT).
Treasurer Matt Kean said the 2022-23 NSW Budget will back the revolutionary new education model which combines the best of university and vocational education, with a focus on two critical areas of demand – the construction industry and digital technology.
“The Budget will deliver a record investment for TAFE NSW, both in terms of operation funding and capital expenditure to improve facilities, upgrade teaching equipment and create modern learning spaces,” Mr Kean said.
“There’s never been a better time to get skilled up and get ahead. These new IATs will strengthen the delivery of education and training, creating a pipeline of job-ready graduates, and set graduates up for the future.”
This investment will bolster the existing $222.5 million commitment from the NSW Government to design and construct the two pilot Institutes.
The IAT for Digital Technology at Meadowbank will focus on the in-demand areas of big data, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence, and will be delivered in partnership with Microsoft, the University of Technology Sydney and Macquarie University.
The IAT for Construction at Kingswood will focus on project management, leadership, and digital construction skills, with a delivery partner to be announced soon.
***Images, vision and animations available here***
Magnificent new multiday walk puts NSW on global ecotourism map
The ancient Gondwana Rainforests on the NSW mid-north coast will host a spectacular new multi-day walk as part of a $56.4 million investment in the NSW Budget.
Treasurer Matt Kean said the four day Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk will increase access to one of Australia’s most beautiful rainforests and attract an extra 200,000 visitors to the region.
“Through the NSW Budget, we’re investing $56.4 million to offer a new way for people to enjoy the ancient World Heritage environment,” Mr Kean said.
“This project will drive increased nature-based tourism in NSW, further bolstering the contribution that national parks make to the State economy.”
National park management and visitation generates $18 billion in economic activity annually and supports over 74,000 jobs, with 75 per cent of economic benefit occurring in regional areas.
Minister for Environment James Griffin said the project is part of the largest capital investment program ever undertaken in NSW national parks.
“Along with Snowies Alpine Walk, the Wollemi Great Walk, and the Great Southern Walk, our signature multi-day walks are providing new experiences in NSW while expanding access to our national parks,” Mr Griffin said.
“The rainforest at Dorrigo National Park is even more spectacular than the Daintree, and I’m proud to say that with this magnificent new 46 kilometre walk, we’ll be happily tempting domestic and international tourists away from Queensland.”
“What I’ll be focused on is getting on with the job,” Mr Bowen told reporters.
Scott Morrison may no longer be prime minister but his words live on in the form of new Energy Minister Chris Bowen.
Mr Bowen was addressing reporters on the new “capability mechanism” when he invoked a well-worn phrase from the former prime minister - that he was “getting on with the job”.
The mechanism has been designed to ensure stability in the national energy grid and could see coal and gas generators paid for reliable supply.
But the Greens, who want the government to do more to wean Australia off fossil fuels, have a different idea.
“The idea of paying coal and gas to stay in the system isn‘t just going to make the climate crisis worse, it’s going to reward the big corporations who have been holding us to ransom,” Greens leader Adam Bandt said.
When questioned about Mr Bandt’s objections on Monday, the Energy Minister said he was simply “getting on with the job”.
“What I’ll be focused on is getting on with the job,” Mr Bowen told reporters.
“The Greens can have their position but those in charge of implementing this are the ones who will get on with the job of delivering a capacity mechanism.”
Mr Morrison often used the phrase “getting on with the job” to brush off curly questions, including during the surge of Omicron cases over summer.
“I don't think anybody expects everything to go perfectly for any government … And, so, look, I’m just getting on with the job,” the former prime minister said in February.
On the capability mechanism, Mr Bowen said the Labor government would proceed at pace and added it would be designed so states could shape it to suit their own needs.
“It's appropriate that states can implement this in a way that is suitable for their needs, but it will be within that national framework and it will complement our emissions target,” he added.
Mr Bowen repurposed an old zinger to lay blame for the ongoing crisis, saying it was “tailor made” by former minister Angus Taylor.
$270 Million to accelerate medtech innovation
NSW will be at the forefront of cutting edge health treatments as part of a $270 million boost to biomedical research in the 2022-23 NSW Budget.
The funding for two new facilities - the Sydney Biomedical Accelerator Complex in Camperdown and the Viral Vector manufacturing facility at Westmead – will transform the industry and help develop treatments for rare, life-limiting diseases as part of the NSW Government’s commitment to driving world-leading health and research precincts.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said this was a significant investment in a growing industry that will help deliver what matters to make daily life better for the people of NSW.
“The NSW Government is committed to putting this state at the very forefront of innovative health care by continuing to invest in state-of-the-art health and research precincts,” Mr Perrottet said.
“This investment in biomedical technology will attract world-leading researchers, scientists and clinicians to our medical precincts, and we hope deliver breakthroughs that create a brighter future for people everywhere.”
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said expanding to commercial scale viral vector manufacturing will ensure faster access to life-saving therapies.
Home ownership help for key workers, single parents and older singles
Teachers, nurses, police, single parents and older singles will be helped to realise their dream of home ownership under a $780.4 million investment in a shared equity scheme to be trialled by the NSW Government.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said under the scheme, the NSW Government would contribute an equity share up to 40 per cent for a new property or up to 30 per cent for an existing property purchased by eligible buyers.
“One of the Government’s priorities is to make home ownership a reality for more people across our State and allow people to live closer to where they want to work, live and raise a family,” Mr Perrottet said.
“This Budget continues our focus on significant and important reform to create a brighter future for NSW families.
“We are continuing to invest in our people to transform our State as we embark on delivering what matters to make daily life better for people across our State.”
Treasurer Matt Kean said many older singles struggled to find secure housing, with the number of women aged over 55 among the fastest growing cohort of homeless people in the nation.
“Housing security is the bedrock of financial security,” Mr Kean said.
“A safe and secure home is fundamental to allow people to earn an income, care for their loved ones and pursue their own interests and aspirations.”
Minister for Homes Anthony Roberts said this scheme would not only help participants overcome the deposit barrier to home ownership, but reduce the size of their mortgage and its repayments.
“This scheme forms part of a broader housing package of $2.8 billion,” Mr Roberts said.
“It marks another step in the Government’s plan to ensure that every person in NSW has a place to call home.”
Extra $408 million to fast-track elective surgery
The NSW Government will invest a further $408 million in the 2022-23 Budget to fast-track elective surgeries delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic response.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the funding boost will take the Government’s total commitment to reducing wait times to almost $1 billion.
“This additional $408 million will make a real difference to patients by bringing their surgeries forward. We will increase elective surgery activity in our public hospitals and continue our collaborative care arrangements with private hospitals, meaning public patients will get faster access to the care they need,” Mr Perrottet said.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the NSW Government’s investment will boost staff by 267 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) and open additional theatre lists at some hospitals on evenings and weekends.
“I want to thank the community for its patience during this most challenging time. This additional funding will enable the fast-tracking of procedures that were delayed to ensure our health system had the capacity to deal with the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Hazzard said.
Minister for Regional Health and Mental Health Bronnie Taylor thanked the hardworking staff right across the state who continued to provide all emergency surgery and urgent elective surgery throughout the pandemic.
“This is a credit to our outstanding healthcare workers who worked tirelessly in the most difficult of circumstances to continue to provide high-quality care,” Mrs Taylor said.
More than $149 million to reduce costs for regional patients
More than 45,000 people in rural and regional NSW are set to benefit from an expansion of the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS), with the NSW Government investing an additional $149.5 million as part of the 2022-23 NSW Budget.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said this funding will make sure people living in the bush won’t have to make the decision between getting the healthcare they need and other life necessities.
“Last year more than 26,000 people received assistance through this crucial program, and we expect that number to almost double thanks to these changes,” Mr Toole said.
“The NSW Government is not only ensuring more people in rural and regional NSW are eligible for the scheme, we are increasing the subsidies available, easing the financial burden on those who face the tyranny of distance to get the specialist care they need.”
For the first time, the scheme will be expanded with patients seeking non-commercial clinical trials, high risk foot clinics, highly specialised publicly funded dental health clinics and ocularists to be eligible for assistance.
The subsidy for people requiring accommodation will be almost doubled, while the NSW Government will also nearly double the private vehicle subsidy rate from 22 cents to 40 cents per kilometre for patients who have to travel more than 100 kilometres for care.
Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said today’s announcement will see a huge weight lifted off so many patients who were previously unable to receive help.
Increase to family tax benefit payments to benefit up to 1.4 million Australian families
More than 1.4 million Australian families will receive up to $255 extra each year in family payments as the government seeks to cushion the blow of the rising cost of living.
Around a million pensioners will also benefit from increases in their government payments in means-test-free areas, limits and deeming thresholds.
Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said the indexation process would help alleviate some of the pain families and pensioners were feeling with rising costs.
Family Tax Benefit Part A will increase by $204.40 per year for families with a child under the age of 13 and $255.50 for those with children older than 13.
Family Tax Benefit Part B will rise by $164.25 a year for families if their youngest child is under five and $116.80 where the youngest child is between five and 18.
“The indexation process complements the levers we are pulling across portfolios to help address the rising cost of living,” Ms Rishworth said.
“We will continue to support Australians by cutting the cost of medicines on the PBS, freezing deeming rates for pensioners, expanding access to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, lowering energy costs and making child care cheaper.”
For pensioners, the amount of income or assets an age pension, disability support pension or carer payment recipient can have before their payment is affected will also increase.
Recipients of other family payments, including Multiple Birth Allowance and Newborn Supplement, will also receive an increase.
“Social security and family payments have a built-in safeguard where they are automatically indexed at regular intervals to help them maintain purchasing power,” Ms Rishworth said.
The latest indexation process comes after the Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe warned that Australia’s inflation rate could reach 7 per cent by the end of the year.
Petrol prices have soared across the country, with a litre now costing more than $2 on average – despite the fuel excise reduction still being in place until September.
And, at the supermarket, recent weather has contributed to the cost of commonplace vegetables like iceberg lettuces going for as much as $12 apiece.
Farmers supported to build natural capital
Farmers around the State will be supported to adopt additional sustainable practices through a groundbreaking $206 million program delivered in the NSW Budget.
Treasurer Matt Kean said this landmark investment will reward farmers who voluntarily reduce their carbon emissions and protect biodiversity.
“This is great news for farmers and the environment. This funding will help improve biodiversity and lower emissions across NSW, and our farmers will receive tangible benefits for sustainable land management practices,” Mr Kean said.
Mr Kean said NSW has an early mover advantage to secure a leading position in the emerging global marketplace for low carbon food and fibre from producers who are also improving our biodiversity.
“This new era of natural capital could unlock up to $10 billion of ‘Environment, Social and Governance’ financing in Australia,” Mr Kean said.
“Natural capital will reduce farmers’ risks from climate change and biodiversity loss while improving long-term farm productivity.”
Minister for Environment James Griffin said the Sustainable Farming Program will help to shore up the long-term health of the environment and the agricultural sector.
“This $206 million new program is completely voluntary. We’re proposing to develop an accreditation scheme for farmers who manage their land for biodiversity and carbon, while enhancing their productivity,” Mr Griffin said.
Aboriginal flag flies closer to Sydney history
The Aboriginal Flag is a step closer to permanently flying on the Sydney Harbour Bridge with a $25 million commitment in the 2022-23 NSW Budget.
The funding will allow for the permanent installation of a third flagpole to fly the Aboriginal Flag above the Sydney Harbour Bridge by the end of this year.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said flying the Aboriginal Flag alongside the Australian and NSW State Flag was an important gesture, which is part of a $401 million investment in this year’s Budget to prioritise Closing the Gap initiatives.
“Our Indigenous history should be celebrated and acknowledged so young Australians understand the rich and enduring culture that we have here with our past,” Mr Perrottet said.
“Installing the Aboriginal flag permanently on the Sydney Harbour Bridge will do just that and is a continuation of the healing process as part of the broader move towards reconciliation.
“We are making significant investments, adopting new approaches and taking practical steps to Close the Gap and improve outcomes for Aboriginal people across NSW.”
Minister for Metropolitan Roads Natalie Ward said the Sydney Harbour Bridge is an appropriate landmark for the Aboriginal Flag to be displayed alongside the Australian and NSW flags.
“Bounded by the Countries of Cammeraygal and Gadigal clan groups, the bridge connects our city, north and south, providing a crucial link to thousands of commuters and sightseers every day,” Mrs Ward said.
“This is a momentous occasion in NSW history and whilst installing the third flagpole is complex, I look forward to seeing all three flags flying on the bridge by the end of 2022.”
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ben Franklin said permanently flying the Aboriginal flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge is an important part of acknowledging Aboriginal people and their rich cultures.
“I am so excited we are one step closer to the Aboriginal flag finally being flown on the Sydney Harbour Bridge permanently, 365 days a year, 7 days a week,” Mr Franklin said.
Stopping street harassment
Public spaces, parklands and public transport will undergo a women’s safety overhaul as part of a $30 million anti-street harassment initiative to be co-designed with women and girls in the 2022-23 NSW Budget.
Treasurer Matt Kean said recent surveys show 90 per cent of young women don’t feel safe in public spaces after dark.
“I have heard too many stories of women taking the long way home to avoid dark streets, or calling a friend while walking in case something goes wrong,” Mr Kean said.
“Safety shouldn’t depend on who you are or where you are.”
The NSW Government will launch an anti-street harassment campaign and pilot solutions such as lighting, CCTV and foot traffic upgrades at Parramatta Park and The Rocks, with more locations to be announced in coming months.
Minister for Infrastructure, Cities and Active Transport Rob Stokes said it was important to start with Parramatta Park because of its tragic history.
“We will work with women and girls to design safer cities for everyone, designing solutions across our public spaces, parklands, precincts and public transport system,” Mr Stokes said.
“The measures we’ll implement range from better lighting to boosting foot traffic, with the aim of improving the way we build and design infrastructure across the board.”