Jury duty simplified with electronic system

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By , 11/09/2018 18:29

Greg Smith said the $3 million grant for the introduction of a new electronic jury management system would speed up the jury process . Photo: Anthony JohnsonA new electronic system will for the first time allow people summoned for jury duty to pick a convenient time to serve.

Another $5.3 million will be spent on improvements to the electronic exchange of data between police and the courts.

Attorney-General Greg Smith said the $3 million grant for the introduction of a new electronic jury management system would speed up the jury process and allow jurors to serve at a convenient time.

“For the first time, people summoned for jury service will be able to nominate dates when they are unavailable and will be able to submit applications online, rather than by mail,” Mr Smith said.

An extra 489 police officers will be employed this year as part of the state government’s commitment to provide an extra 859 by 2015.

Police Minister Mike Gallacher said $192 million in recurrent funding would be spent in the next four years to boost police numbers.

“This funding keeps the government on track to deliver its commitment to 859 additional police, bringing police numbers to a record 16,665 in August 2015,” he said.

Mr Gallacher said $47 million had been allocated to building and refurbishing police stations in Riverstone, Coffs Harbour, Lake Macquarie, Liverpool, Tweed Heads, Walgett, Moree, Manly and Parkes.

As promised, the government will replace an old police helicopter with a new “counter-terrorism” one at a cost of $16 million.

State emergency services will receive an extra $22 million to improve their capacity to deal with floods and storms.

The budget will also provide $7.6 million for 7000 new firefighting helmets.

The Attorney-General’s department will spend $120 million to build and upgrade courts.

Victims of crime will receive a one-off funding grant of $130 million for unresolved claims in addition to $70 million in recurrent expenditure.

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Stamp duty revenue soars as budget spruiks housing optimism

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By , 11/09/2018 18:29

Abandon any thought of slumps in the market for existing houses or apartments – the government collected a record $4.39 billion in stamp duty for property sales over the past year.

And, thanks to interest rates being at historically low levels and growing momentum in the sector, forward estimates show a rise of more than 20 per cent in revenue from residential sales for the next financial year. That’s close to $5 billion.

Treasury officials point out that the record figure of $4.39 billion wasn’t purely residential – it included stamp duty on the sale of Port Botany and Port Kembla.

But the revenue raised on residential sales alone over the past year was estimated to be 18.4 per cent higher than in 2011-12.

Next year’s total stamp duty revenue from property – when commercial transactions are included – is expected to be $4.96 million.

The budget papers concede that first home buyer numbers dropped in the past year – after the government cut the $7000 first home owner grant on existing property on October 1 – so their contribution to stamp duty revenue was subdued. However, this must have been more than made up for by investors, upgraders and downsizers.

The budget papers give eight reasons for housing sector optimism.

These were: Interest rates at historically low levels; increasing consumer confidence; housing finance approvals trending upwards; building approvals increasing; low vacancy rates in conjunction with rising rents; housing prices starting to rise; housing affordability improving; and demand remaining strong because of demographic trends.

However, Treasurer Mike Baird said the new housing sector was “still weak”, although improving.

That’s no doubt the reason that the government has decided to continue its $15,000 grant for first home buyers of new property – announced in last year’s budget – for a further two years.

It had been due to drop to $10,000 from January 1 next year.

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Vulnerable children receive funding boost

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By , 11/09/2018 18:29

Thousands of vulnerable children in NSW will benefit from measures announced in this year’s budget.

Almost $800 million will go towards the 18,400 children living in foster care, with $415 million of that going towards welfare groups that provide out-of-home care services.

The Department of Family and Community Services announced $446 million for child protection services and $246 million for early intervention services, including family violence, parental drug and alcohol misuse and parental mental health issues.

The majority of the services will be provided by the non-government welfare sector.

There are about 61,000 children at risk of significant harm in NSW – but just over one-third receive a face-to-face assessment or service.

Community support will also be provided by the private sector through social benefit bonds, with $7 million in private capital already raised for a UnitingCare Burnside program that assists vulnerable families.

A social benefit bond for the Benevolent Society will raise $10 million in private capital for a program to help at-risk families stay together.

Almost 54,000 homeless people will benefit from $138 million in funding for specialist homelessness services.

Accommodation for people with disabilities will also be improved, with more than 9000 new places to be created in 2013-14, including supported accommodation and respite places.

Existing accommodation will also be upgraded, with $54 million to be spent improving group homes and supported living facilities.

Minister for Disability Services Andrew Constance announced a budget allocation of $585 million to the launch of the national disability insurance scheme, DisabilityCare Australia, which will begin in the Hunter next month.

The trial will assist 10,000 people initially, before a full rollout in 2018.

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Lisa Ho shuts up shop

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By , 11/09/2018 18:29

Lisa Ho’s spring/summer 2012/13 showcase as the Art Gallery of NSW was a highlight of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia in 2012.Fashion designer Lisa Ho is closing down.

Administrators HLB Mann Judd issued a statement on Tuesday announcing the end of the Australian fashion queen’s 30-year reign.

“Despite considerable interest, a sale of the Lisa Ho Group business as a going concern has not been achieved within the sale program.”

While there were whispers and numerous reports of interested buyers, including Myer and the Apparel Group – owners of the Sportscraft and Saba labels – administrators have been unable to salvage the Lisa Ho business in its entirety and are now closing the remaining stand-alone stores around the country.

“There is a difficultly in retail at the moment and a lot of other retailers are in a similar position but there was and still is a lot of love for the Lisa Ho brand. We still have parties interested in the intellectual property and remaining stock,” HLB Mann Judd’s Todd Gammel told Fairfax.

“Lisa is working through her own issues. She’s been in discussions with us and she is still interested in getting her brand back.”

“We don’t know where it’s going to get to in terms of the stock so we’ve just got to go ahead with what we can do. We would be trying for everybody to give us a view in the next few days around that so we can see if we can get some of the employees and retail away otherwise it’s going to go through the normal closing down process,” Mr Gammel said.

Sales at the online store, Strand, Elizabeth Street, Chadstone, Bourke Street and Brisbane boutiques are now underway until June 30.

Current stock, bridal and evening wear has been reduced by more than 50 per cent.

“It’s a great chance to buy an iconic piece of Australian fashion. There are now $10,000 gowns being reduced to $3,000,” Mr Gammel said.

Prior to being placed in administration on May 8 with debts of more than $10 million, there were plans for Lisa Ho Designs to be listed on the stock exchange.

Ms Ho started her career at a Sydney market in the early 1980s.

Over the years her designs have been worn by models-turned-mogels Tyra Banks and Elle Macpherson as well as singers Florence Welsh and Nicole Scherzinger. Lisa Ho has been a red carpet staple spotted at numerous film premieres and awards ceremonies both in Australia and overseas.

Australia fashion leaders were saddened by the news.

“Personally, Lisa Ho is a dear friend who I have always admired as she built her fashion brand from a small store at Paddington markets into an iconic fashion label, so it is really devastating to see a fashion pioneer like Lisa fall on tough times,” Harper’s BAZAAR editor Kellie Hush said.

“Like many Australian women, I have loved and worn Lisa Ho for decades as she has always created fashion women want to wear. I know this is not the final chapter for Lisa as she is an inspirational business woman and look forward to seeing what she does next.”

Lisa Ho was unavailable for comment.

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Turkey’s $20 billion tourism industry under threat

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By , 11/09/2018 18:29

As the northern summer tourism season is set to begin, the violent protests in Turkey show no sign of calming down.

The nationwide protests, which began in late May, have led to a series of violent clashes between police and Turkish citizens in prominent tourist areas. Three people are reported to have died and the Turkish government is now threatening to utilise its army to subdue the unrest.

With Turkish police having fired tear gas into the foyer of the luxury Divan Hotel on Saturday, the situation is increasingly becoming of concern to tourists and the Turkish economy. Turkey is the sixth most popular tourist destination in the world. It attracts more than 30 million foreign tourists annually, generating more than $20 billion for the Turkish economy.

As the protests enter the country’s peak travel season, the Turkish Ministry Of Culture and Tourism has released a statement in an attempt to quell concerns. “There are currently no problems being experienced with either transport or security in Istanbul or any of our tourism regions, and thus every sort of touristic activity is carrying on as normal.”

But the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advised on Monday that the road leading to Australia’s Consulate-General in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square had been closed as a result of the situation. “Australians seeking to visit the Consulate-General will need to show their passport identification to access this area,” DFAT’s Smart Traveller Website advises. DFAT’s advice for Australians travelling to Turkey remains at “Exercise a high degree of caution”.

Dr David Tittensor, an expert in Turkish politics and society from the University of Melbourne, said Turkey remains safe for tourists if they avoid troubled areas. “It would be wise for people to stay away from protest areas, particularly with reports rubber bullets have been used.”

Dr Tittensor said he did not think the protests would continue for the duration of Turkey’s peak tourism season. “I think they will pass. I can’t see it going on for two months,” he said.

“Given the violent crackdown, I’d be surprised if the government allowed it to continue.”

Shannon O’Reilly, 21 from Sydney, is holidaying in Turkey for her mid-semester university break in three weeks time. O’Reilly said she was closely following the news out of Istanbul, where she will spend the majority of her vacation. “If the situation escalates more I’d consider changing plans but at moment I’ll just wait and see what happens,” she said.

Having travelled to Turkey before, O’Reilly’s excitement for her return hasn’t been deterred by the political unrest. “It’s a beautiful place with really friendly people.”

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