OPINION: No mistake, it’s a triumph for our city

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By , 10/07/2019 12:24

IN what was just another day for most towns and cities across the state of NSW yesterday, Newcastle celebrated a big vote of confidence in our future.

VOTE OF CONFIDENCE: Yesterday’s budget announcements will help our beautiful city reach its potential.

The Newcastle CBD will undergo a long-awaited metamorphosis and a world-class future awaits us. It’s time to make the most of the opportunities in front of us. It’s time for the naysayers to leave the so-called “debate” surrounding the urban renewal of Newcastle and it’s time for the overwhelming majority of people to step up and support the exciting future that this opportunity presents for us and for future generations.

Yesterday’s NSW state budget, delivered by Treasurer Mike Baird, sent a strong message to the people of Newcastle, the Hunter and the state of NSW that our city does matter and it is poised for great things.

The announcement of $340 million in funding for the revitalisation of Newcastle is certainly welcome news. The funding is subject to the long-term lease of the Port of Newcastle and we look forward to the detail of that proposal and what it will mean for the future growth and diversification of the Port.

Make no mistake, the Port of Newcastle is the most important infrastructure asset in our region and deserves the opportunity to have its potential fully realised well into the future.

The Port of Newcastle is a highly significant player in the world coal export market. This is no secret to the people of the Hunter region and it is one of the key economic drivers for NSW and will continue to contribute strongly to the export growth of the nation. Yet most people are usually not aware of the highly diversified nature of our port. Numerous commodities are moved on a daily basis through our port and the work of the Newcastle Port Corporation to actively attract and grow investment in a range of commodities must be clearly recognised and commended.

The NSW government has indicated that the time is right to take the Port of Newcastle to the next stage of growth. It will be vital to ensure that the long-term lease process achieves the very best result for our region and our port.

The funding committed by government will be used to implement the first stage of a light rail service between Wickham and Newcastle with the potential for further investment in a wider light rail system to improve access in and around Newcastle and its surrounding centres.

We look forward to hearing more detail about the allocation of this funding and how it will be used to drive the development of a centre of activity in the city.

The Chamber has long advocated for the needs of our region and the Newcastle CBD. Building a city that is dynamic and vibrant and will attract people to the region is key to our region’s continued success. The NSW Treasurer, Mike Baird, handed down his third state budget for the O’Farrell government and there can be no denying the strong focus and commitment to delivering infrastructure that will drive investment.

Like elsewhere around the state, business confidence in the Hunter is low and the region’s appetite for economic stimulation and growth is stronger than ever.

This investment will go a long way towards realising the greater potential of our city and provide an effective transport solution that will deliver the necessary infrastructure to enable development and growth.

I am excited by the prospects this new initiative will deliver. Newcastle is the second largest city in NSW and this will put us firmly on the map in terms of our national prominence. It will unlock our city as a world-class place to live and do business.

In conjunction with other key pieces of the urban renewal puzzle, including the legal precinct and the university precinct, this major initiative will complete the work needed to bring about significant change and revitalisation to our city.

This state budget has recognised Newcastle as a city that will continue to deliver great things for NSW. If our city and region are to step up and deliver the goods, then we need the right framework for growth and investment.

This budget commitment of $340 million will combine with the funding of $120 million promised late last year to create a very real platform for delivery of a signature urban renewal project and a huge win for Newcastle and the Hunter.

Richard Anicich is the president of the Hunter Business Chamber.

BUDGET: Art gallery revamp denied State cash

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By , 10/07/2019 12:24

THE $21 million Newcastle Art Gallery redevelopment will almost certainly collapse after failing to recieve any money in Tuesday’s state budget.

A ‘‘livid’’ Newcastle MP Sharon Grierson said she expected the federal government will now revoke a $7 million grant for the expansion when the latest deadline expires on Thursday.

Doing so would leave the gallery with little money and at the rock bottom of Newcastle City Council’s capital spending priorities.

The state government has suggested that Newcastle City Council could apply for an $80 million Royalties for Regions program that closes in October.

But Ms Grierson said the state was well aware of the latest federal government deadline, which has already been extended twice.

‘‘That was the deal and they knew that,’’ Ms Grierson said.

‘‘We entered into good faith negotiations and I now have no faith in [state MP] Tim Owen.’’

‘‘It’s absolutely outrageous and I am livid about the process. ‘‘We won’t get that money again.’’

Even if the federal government was willing to grant another extension, the timing of the September election is problematic. The Commonwealth would want the issue resolved before going into caretaker mode in August.

The council failed to apply for the first round of the Royalties for Regions program.

Gallery chairman Robert Henderson said the suggestion that gallery funding could come from the program was ‘‘a cynical attempt at shifting the blame for this shameful state of affairs on to the council’’.

‘‘Newcastle will look back with shame at this lost opportunity to enrich the cultural and economic life of the inner city’’, Dr Henderson said.

The Art Gallery of NSW recieved $10.8 million in the state budget to plan for a future expansion.

‘‘$430 million is available from the state budget to revitalise Newcastle and yet, once again, Newcastle misses out’’, Dr Henderson said.

From left Ron Ramsey, Newcastle Region Gallery Director and Dr Robert Henderson Chairman Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation outside the gallery in December. Picture: Simone De Peak

BUDGET: Business upbeat over rail decision

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By , 10/07/2019 12:24

PEAK business and developer groups yesterday applauded the government’s decision to seek a long-term lease for the Port of Newcastle to help revitalise the inner-city, including a light rail service.

Hunter Business Chamber president Richard Anicich said it was ‘‘big dollars’’ for a ‘‘new Newcastle’’ that was desperately needed.

‘‘This is about reinventing Newcastle, providing a more effective transport system in and around the city and opening access to the harbour,’’ Mr Anicich said.

He said the chamber had long argued for the preservation of the corridor for the use of light rail when funding was available and the budget decision sought to ‘‘fast track the optimal solution’’.

Hunter Development Corporation chairman Paul Broad said the additional $340million in CBD funding (stemming from an anticipated $700million windfall from the port lease) would allow the city to ‘‘aim higher and get moving’’.

“By lifting the funding commitment, the government has made it possible to consider light rail in the vision of a revitalised city centre,’’ he said.

The Property Council of Australia’s NSW regional director Andrew Fletcher said placing light rail as the centrepiece of the city’s urban renewal strategy was a ‘‘win-win’’ for the city.

‘‘Light rail is more compatible with the broader agenda for renewal and will ensure the debate around people being able to travel into the CBD ends today,’’ he said.

Mr Fletcher praised Planning Minister Brad Hazzard’s comment that the light rail decision would provide the ‘‘potential basis’’ for a wider light rail service linking the CBD with surrounding beaches and suburbs.

‘‘Turbo-charging the transport solution will sustain the city for decades to come and make Newcastle a magnet for further investment.’’

Alan Squire, head of lobby group Hunter Transport for Business Development, said that while it was a shame the light rail system was conditional on the lease deal, it was a step forward.

‘‘It’s exactly what we asked the government to do … and it needs to happen sooner than later,’’ he said.

Labor’s federal candidate for the seat of Newcastle, Sharon Claydon, slammed the government for ‘‘short changing’’ the Hunter.

“The Port of Newcastle contributes $70million a year to the NSW coffers [yet] Barry O’Farrell is happy to sell it off on a 99-year lease for 10 years worth of revenue,’’ she said.

‘‘Over 99 years our port could make $16billion for the state, but will be sold for just $700million.’’

Mrs Claydon said the budget was devoid of sweeteners for the region.

“All we get from the selloff of the biggest coal port in the world is a one-kilometre tram line replacing a one-kilometre train line,’’ she said.

“There is no money for the Newcastle art gallery, no money for the inner city bypass to be completed, no money for a new Tourle Street bridge.’’

Hunter Business Chamber president Richard Anicich said the long term plan to lease the port and provide light rail was ‘‘big dollars’’ for a ‘‘new Newcastle’’ .

BUDGET: Health funds for disability care

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By , 10/07/2019 12:24

DISSATISFIED: NSW Nurses Association Hunter organiser Matt Byrne wants more money for staff in key departments. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers MORE than $17 million will be spent on dedicated Hunter health services in this year’s state health budget but the biggest cash splash is sure to be $585 million for the launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the region.

There were no surprises in the health pages of the budget, with previously announced plans for $6.8 million for planning a new hospital in the Coalfields and $4.5 million for a paediatric intensive care unit at John Hunter Hospital.

There are also funds for Muswellbrook emergency department refurbishment, the reopening of Bulahdelah Hospital as a medical centre and Raymond Terrace HealthOne.

Statewide, highlights in the budget included money for palliative care ($10 million), mental health, ($1.45 billion), oral health ($50 million), medical research ($51 million), more nurses and emergency departments.

There’s also money for ambulance fleet replacement and ambulance service reforms.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said this year’s record $19-billion health budget increased by 5.2 per cent compared to last year.

The most recent consumer price index for health was running at little over 7 per cent.

John Hunter Hospital’s struggling emergency department is likely to benefit from $220 million across NSW to cope with increased health activity including emergency department attendances, intensive care and hospital admissions.

There’s also $9.2 million across the state for 80 more clinical nurse/midwife specialists and educators, including $3 million for 30 new palliative care nurses across NSW.

Ms Skinner said she was pleased the budget recognised the importance of integrated care, such as those schemes at Bulahdelah and Raymond Terrace.

‘‘Integrated care provides patients with options to avoid hospitalisation,’’ she said.

‘‘This is the future of modern healthcare systems.’’

Disability Services Minister Andrew Constance said the state government was on the ‘‘front foot’’ with $585 million for the NDIS.

However, the funding is only a slight increase compared to what the state government would have spent on disability services in the region regardless.

‘‘We were proud to be the first state to agree to the full funding of the NDIS with the federal government,’’ Mr Constance said.

NSW Nurses Association Hunter organiser Matt Byrne said yesterday’s budget contained only re-announcements and he was ‘‘gutted’’ to see no new funds to improve staffing levels in neonatal, paediatric, intensive care or emergency departments.

‘‘The cuts to health jobs are well known but the equivalent staff enhancements are not known at all,’’ he said.

‘‘The state government said it has hired 4000 nurses into the system but can’t tell us where they are.’’

Tinkler calls Singapore home

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By , 10/07/2019 12:24

Embattled coal magnate Nathan Tinkler has quietly moved to set up a new company in tax haven Singapore as he continues efforts to sell assets in Australia.

The debt-laden former electrician has also moved to tighten his grip on his business in Singapore by tipping out the local director of his existing company, Bentley Resources, and taking control as sole director and shareholder.

He is also the sole director and shareholder of the new company in the Singaporean group, Bentley Resources Administration, which is a subsidiary of Bentley Resources.

A spokesman for Mr Tinkler declined to comment on the new Singaporean structure.

Singaporean company records show Mr Tinkler embarked on the restructure in late April, less than a fortnight after liquidators of his failed Australian company, Mulsanne Resources, said they planned to bring legal action against him for insolvent trading.

ASX-listed junior miner Blackwood Corporation forced Mulsanne into liquidation last year after Mulsanne failed to honour a deal to pay $28 million for a third of Blackwood.

However, that claim was settled for $12 million earlier this month, putting the liquidator’s action against Mr Tinkler on ice.

Mr Tinkler has also recently settled lawsuits brought by the Tax Office and his former corporate adviser BKK Partners.

And he has moved to sell many of his Australian assets, including 466 horses, reportedly worth tens of millions of dollars, from his stud thoroughbred operation Patinack Farm and his $5.2 million country retreat near Brisbane. Mr Tinkler put the horses – about half of Patinack Farm’s stock – on the market after failing to find a buyer willing to take the entire operation.

In March, under examination in the NSW Supreme Court, Mr Tinkler valued Patinack Farm at a minimum of $100 million, after debts were cleared. He told the court he had access to a family trust worth up to $1.4 billion – but only when given money by his wife, Rebecca.

His connection with Singapore began in March last year, when he set up Bentley Resources, and was strengthened three months later when he announced he was moving to the city state.

At the time, Mr Tinkler’s spokesman said the miner ”just wants to be closer to the markets, to Asia”, and he remained committed to his Australian business interests and his rugby league team, the Newcastle Knights.

Singapore’s top personal tax rate is 20 per cent, compared with a top marginal rate in Australia of 46.5 per cent, including the Medicare levy. In Singapore, companies are required to have a locally resident director, a role that at Bentley Resources was filled by an accountant at Tricor Group, Lee Wei Hsung. Mr Lee also owned the single share issued by Bentley Resources.

However, company documents show Mr Tinkler’s immigration status changed some time before July 17 last year, when the Singaporean government issued him with a Foreign Identification Number. The number starts with the letter G, indicating Mr Tinkler was granted employment rights.

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