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National News Australia

Teenager Charged with Terrorism Offence After Sydney Church Stabbing

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Teenager Charged with Terrorism Offence After Sydney Church Stabbing

In a significant development, a 16-year-old adolescent has been formally charged with a terrorism offence today, stemming from an intensive investigation conducted by the Joint Counter Terrorism Team Sydney in relation to an alleged stabbing incident at a church in Sydney.

The events unfolded on Monday evening, April 15, 2024, around 7:10 pm, when law enforcement authorities responded to distressing reports of a stabbing incident at a church situated at the intersection of Box Road and Welcome Street in Wakeley. Upon arrival, officers from the Fairfield City Police Area Command encountered a 53-year-old individual with severe head injuries, indicating the gravity of the situation. Additionally, a 39-year-old man sustained lacerations and a shoulder injury while attempting to intervene in the altercation.
The situation escalated further as it was revealed that a 16-year-old male, who had been restrained by members of the public, was subsequently apprehended by law enforcement personnel. Following this, investigators from the Joint Counter Terrorism Team Sydney took a proactive step by attending a medical facility later in the day, Thursday, April 18, 2024, to conduct a thorough interview with the adolescent suspect.

Subsequently, the 16-year-old was formally charged under section 101.1 of the Criminal Code Act (Commonwealth) 1995 for committing a terrorist act. This offence carries a severe penalty of imprisonment for life, highlighting the gravity of the charges laid against the individual. The accused has been denied bail and is slated to appear before a bedside court hearing scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, April 19, 2024.

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The Joint Counter Terrorism Team Sydney, comprising personnel from the NSW Police Force, Australian Federal Police, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and NSW Crime Commission, has been instrumental in swiftly responding to and investigating the matter, underscoring the collaborative efforts in ensuring public safety and security.
In light of these developments, authorities urge members of the public to remain vigilant and report any information related to extremist activities or potential threats to community safety, emphasizing the importance of every piece of information, regardless of its perceived significance. Individuals can contact the National Security Hotline at 1800 123 400 to report any relevant information.

Furthermore, individuals with information pertaining to criminal activities are encouraged to reach out to Crime Stoppers at 1800 333 000 or via the online portal at https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. All information provided will be treated with utmost confidentiality, and the public is reminded to refrain from reporting information through NSW Police social media channels.

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Councils lose half billion dollars a year

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Councils lose half billion dollars a year

 

The United Services Union (USU) has unveiled a startling revelation regarding the NSW Government’s handling of funds accrued through a flawed waste levy system, which has led to an annual loss exceeding half a billion dollars for local councils. Rather than channelling these funds back into assisting councils with their waste management services and infrastructure, as intended, the government’s actions have exacerbated financial strains on local authorities.

This revelation, to be presented before the NSW Standing Committee on State Development’s inquiry into local government financial sustainability, highlights a pressing issue compounded by the detrimental effects of rate capping—a policy that has severely constrained the financial flexibility of the majority of NSW councils. Both the flawed waste levy system and the constraints of rate capping persist as legacies of the previous coalition government.

General Secretary of the USU, Graeme Kelly, underscored the severity of the situation, emphasising that while local councils and communities contribute approximately $750 million annually through the waste levy, only a fraction, $250 million, is reinvested into local waste management initiatives. The staggering sum of $500 million is siphoned into the state’s consolidated revenue, neglecting the intended purpose of aiding councils in managing waste sustainably.

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The shortfall in waste levy revenue exacerbates existing challenges, particularly in regions like northern NSW, where inadequate landfill sites prompt councils to incur additional costs by transporting waste across state borders. This situation not only burdens ratepayers but also results in lost levy revenue for NSW.

Mr. Kelly decried this as a blatant instance of cost shifting by the NSW Government, which places undue strain on councils already grappling with financial constraints imposed by rate pegging, diminishing grants, and escalating service demands.

The USU contends that the mismanagement of the waste levy exacerbates financial pressures on councils, incentivizing some to seek alternatives such as dumping waste in neighbouring states. This practice not only undermines environmental objectives but also erodes the financial stability of local councils.

However, the waste levy issue is symptomatic of a larger financial crisis facing local government in NSW, as highlighted in a report by Professor Brian Dollery. The report underscores the deleterious impact of rate pegging, which over two decades has precipitated heightened debt levels, infrastructure deficiencies, and decreased municipal efficiency compared to states without rate caps.

Mr. Kelly emphasised the urgent need for reform, asserting that unless councils are empowered to set rates reflective of their actual costs, the risk of financial distress looms large, jeopardising employment and essential services for over 50,000 council employees statewide.

The USU calls upon the NSW Government to dismantle rate pegging as part of a comprehensive reform agenda aimed at securing the long-term financial viability of local government. While recognizing the complexity of the challenges ahead, Mr. Kelly stressed that abolishing rate pegging represents a crucial initial step towards establishing a sustainable funding model that acknowledges the indispensable role of local government in community welfare.

 

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NSW Government to Modernise Planning with $5.6 Million AI Investment

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NSW Government to Modernise Planning with $5.6 Million AI Investment

 

The NSW Government has announced a $5.6 million initiative to integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into local council planning systems to address the ongoing housing crisis and shortage of planners. This move aims to accelerate development assessment times and enhance the efficiency of the planning process.

The “AI in NSW Planning” project has identified key areas within the development application assessment process that contribute to delays and could benefit from AI technologies.

After thorough evaluation, three innovative technologies have been selected for trials through the AI Solutions Panel and Early Adopter Grant Program:

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  • Adaptovate Pty Ltd’s Development Assessment Intelligence System (DAISY)
  • Archistar Platform
  • Propcode CDC

Councils are encouraged to apply for funding to test these technologies, with collaborative joint grant applications eligible for up to $500,000 and single council applications up to $200,000. This funding initiative is designed to foster innovative solutions to streamline the development application process.

Approximately 85 percent of all new home development applications in NSW are assessed by council staff. The introduction of recommended AI tools aims to reduce the average time taken to assess development applications by swiftly identifying administrative and data input errors.

Applications for the Early Adopter Grant Program are open to all councils and will close on 22 May 2024. Successful applicants will be notified by June.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Paul Scully, emphasised the transformative potential of the program: “This grant program is set to modernise the NSW planning system, enhancing its efficiency by equipping our planners with the best tools available. Our objective is to ensure the planning system operates at full capacity, which is essential for the timely delivery of new homes.”

For further details or to apply for a grant, councils are invited to visit the NSW Planning website. This initiative marks a significant step towards bringing NSW planning systems into the 21st century, leveraging technology to meet the growing needs of the community.

 

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Nearly $1.4M in Grants Awarded to Strengthen Rural Communities Across Australia

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Nearly $1.4M in Grants Awarded to Strengthen Rural Communities Across Australia

 

In a significant boost for rural development, the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) has announced that nearly $1.4 million in grants have been distributed to 129 community groups across remote, rural, and regional Australia. These grants, part of the FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) program, aim to support a variety of local initiatives designed to enhance community cohesion and resilience.

The funding was allocated across three streams: community enhancements like upgrades to local facilities; COVID-19 recovery projects such as the creation of cultural precincts; and disaster preparedness and recovery initiatives, which include programs tailored for trauma-responsive community healing.

This round of SRC funding saw an unprecedented demand with 450 applications submitted, requesting over $4.5 million in support for projects collectively valued at more than $19 million. In response to the high demand, FRRR has streamlined its application process, significantly reducing the time from application to award to just nine weeks.

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Jill Karena, FRRR’s Place Portfolio Lead, highlighted the shifting landscape of funding in rural areas, noting a decrease in traditional government and local business support. “The SRC program’s flexibility and year-round availability are crucial, especially as communities transition from immediate disaster response to long-term recovery,” Karena explained. “This round we observed a notable increase in applications for community events funding and initiatives aimed at boosting local economies through tourism and other activities.”

Despite the generous grant allocations, there remains a significant unmet need within these communities. An additional 85 projects were ready for funding, seeking over $900,000 which could not be met due to limited resources. This underscores the critical role that small grants play in sustaining rural community groups and why FRRR is actively seeking new partners to expand its funding capabilities.

“Groups have expressed the importance of having access to timely and secure funding to support not just immediate needs but also medium and long-term goals,” said Ms. Karena. “These projects foster a strong sense of place and identity, and they require continuous support. We hope to engage more collaborative funders to join us in nurturing the heart of Australia’s rural sectors.”

A complete list of the grant recipients is available on the FRRR’s website. The SRC program is supported by a variety of donors, from private individuals to larger foundations, all listed on the FRRR’s website. Community groups and local not-for-profits are encouraged to review the program guidelines and consider applying for future rounds of funding.

More information about the SRC program can be found here.

 

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