Qld Cross River Rail funding hopes dashed

The Queensland government’s hopes of a last-minute federal injection to Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project appear to have been dashed, with the prime minister refusing to commit to funding.

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk raised the topic of federal funding for the project during discussions at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Hobart, but did not receive a pledge.

“My government has already committed $850 million to Cross River Rail. We expect a matching commitment from the Turnbull government so work on Cross River Rail can get under way,” she said after the discussions.

The state Labor government has previously urged the commonwealth to at least match its funding commitment or risk delaying the start of the rail beyond the end of this year.

But this year’s federal budget overlooked the $5.4 billion project, instead including a multi-billion dollar federal rail fund which could be used to pay for the Brisbane proposal, but not before 2019.

In the absence of federal funds, the Palaszczuk government would have to decide whether to go ahead alone, or seek other funding arrangements, possibly from the private sector.

During a meeting three weeks, ago Mr Turnbull told the premier there were outstanding requests for information from Infrastructure Australia.

Ms Palaszczuk on Friday said that information had since been provided, while the project had also received the support of the Brisbane City Council.

“The prime minister now has no excuse for the people of southeast Queensland for continuing to fail to fund Cross River Rail and help alleviate traffic congestion,” she said.

Deputy Premier and Transport Minister Jackie Trad said Mr Turnbull’s refusal to commit to funding came on the same day the project secured all major state approvals necessary.

At a pre-budget address on Tuesday, Treasurer Curtis Pitt said he “had a plan” to fund the project, but that didn’t mean federal funds would be unwelcome if they were offered.

Liberal National Party leader Tim Nicholls called on the government to release its business case.

“If it’s such a good business case, why are Annastacia Palaszczuk and Jackie Trad refusing to release the details?” he said.

What now for Brexit after UK vote?

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party has failed to win a parliamentary majority in Britain’s election on Friday, a shock result that plunges domestic politics into turmoil and could delay Brexit talks.

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Below are details of what happens next:

WHO GETS POWER?

For the election to produce a majority government, the biggest party theoretically must win at least 326 seats of the 650 United Kingdom constituencies. In practice, the threshold for a majority is around 323, because the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party takes up no seats that it wins in Northern Ireland.

As incumbent, May has the right to make the first attempt to form a coalition, though her tough stance on Brexit is likely to make finding a suitable partner difficult.

Until a new government is formed, May and her team of ministers remain in charge and retain their full legal powers to act on behalf of the country, although by convention they would be expected to avoid taking major decisions.

MINORITY CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT

May signalled she could attempt to lead a government without commanding a majority, relying on her opponents for support in parliament on an issue-by-issue basis.

Speaking as results were still being counted, she said Britain needed a period of stability and that she would take responsibility for delivering it if, as forecast, she won the most seats.

This will test the cross-party support for her pre-election pledges.

While her hardline Brexit strategy is opposed by all other major parties, Britain has already started the process of leaving the bloc by triggering a two-year negotiation period with Brussels. It is unlikely she would agree to stopping the Brexit divorce.

Nevertheless, May’s plans still rely heavily on being able to pass legislation through parliament. Firstly to convert EU law into British law, and then to form new post-Brexit policy on issues like immigration and tax.

Delays or outright blockages on this legislation would place doubts over how Britain would control its borders and trade with the EU after Brexit.

2010 REDUX: CONSERVATIVE-LED COALITION

The Conservatives formed a coalition in 2010 with the centrist, pro-EU Liberal Democrats as junior partner. They governed together until 2015.

The two parties are unlikely to be reunited in coalition without major compromises on the central principle of their election manifestos: Brexit.

The Conservatives’ other coalition options are limited. They can traditionally rely on the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which holds 10 seats.

Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party (SNP), which was forecast by media commentators to win 35 seats, are at ideological loggerheads with the Conservatives.

LABOUR-LED COALITION

A hung parliament could play in Labour’s favour even if it won less seats than the Conservatives because it is politically closer to smaller rivals on several issues. Labour has said it would try to form a minority government, and Corbyn has refused to discuss forming a coalition after June 8.

He is committed to heeding the results of Britain’s EU membership referendum a year ago in which 52 per cent voted Leave against 48 per cent in favour of Remain.

However, Labour has fought to water down May’s Brexit strategy which could make it easier to reach a compromise with either the Liberal Democrats, which has ruled out any coalition, or the pro-European SNP, which says it wants to stop another Conservative government.

Leaders vow to toughen anti-terror laws

Stronger counter-terrorism laws appear inevitable as Australia’s state and territory leaders move swiftly to keep potential attackers behind bars.

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Premiers and chief ministers on Friday agreed to toughen bail and parole rules for people who have demonstrated support for or have links to terrorist activity.

There would be a presumption against their release, even if they hadn’t been in jail for a terror-related offence.

It follows Monday’s deadly siege in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton, where Yacqub Khayre killed a man, injured three police officers and took a woman hostage while on parole.

He had a long history of violence and had been charged, but later acquitted, for plotting a terror attack in 2009.

“This presumption is a vital element in keeping these people who are a threat to our safety, and our safety of our families, off the streets,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters after the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Hobart.

“Violent criminals with terrorist links should not be walking the streets.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who announced her own suite of new counter-terrorism measures earlier this week, backed the plan.

“It will have far-reaching and positive consequences in terms of minimising as much as possible letting people out who could cause harm to others,” she said.

Mr Turnbull also announced that security-cleared corrections officers will be part of joint counter-terrorism teams across Australia.

That will ensure even closer co-operation and greater information sharing between agencies.

Leaders have also agreed to review counter-terrorism laws and practices at a special national security meeting in the coming months.

The prime minister says it’s not an area of policy where you can “set and forget”.

“We’re going to be very proactive, constantly upgrading our defences.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews welcomed the meeting, saying there was some unfinished work left after Friday’s COAG gathering.

“I think the community will take a very dim view of each of us if, after that meeting, we do not have a detailed list of concrete, common-sense steps, doing what has to be done to keep every Australian safe,” he said.

Mr Andrews believes Australia has reached a point where it needed to give serious consideration to giving law enforcement tools they don’t now enjoy.

“It may mean taking the rights and freedoms of a small number of people (but) that is what will be needed in order to preserve and protect a great many more.”

The premier has already floated the idea of building a new federal maximum security prison to hold Australia’s most dangerous terrorists – a notion quickly rubbished by cabinet minister Christopher Pyne.

Leaders on Friday also discussed the work being done to protect Australians in crowded places and areas of mass gathering.

It followed briefings by the director-general of domestic intelligence agency ASIO, the acting commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, the prime minister’s cyber security advisor and counter-terrorism co-ordinator.

Heeney believes Swans can play AFL finals

Sydney’s Isaac Heeney is fast getting back to his best and believes the Swans are still a big chance of playing finals footy despite their slow start to the AFL season.

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The Swans have won four of their past five after starting the season 0-6.

Heeney missed the the first four rounds with glandular fever but has played the past seven.

He logged a personal season-high 31 touches in Thursday’s 46-point home win over the Western Bulldogs, in which Sydney’s relentless trademark pressure was evident after it went missing earlier in the campaign.

“All the focus is on next week with the Tigers, but I think the boys are confident that if we can bring the pressure and the hardness that we provided last night, we can get into the finals,” Heeney said.

“l think it’s such a level playing field at the moment that we’re definitely still a chance if we can play that style of footy consistently.”

Heeney is averaging a career-best 22 disposals a game this year, despite his delayed start.

“I don’t think I’m quite back to 100 per cent, but I’m not far off,” Heeney said.

“I’m able to run games out now without cramping, so that’s a positive.”

Heeney said he was getting plenty of extra sleep and paying attention to his diet after getting tips from teammates Heath Grundy and Kieren Jack, both of who also suffered from glandular fever.

“They just said diet and sleep is really all you can do, there’s no medication for it,” Heeney said.

Heeney has popped up all over the field this year, describing his role as “a bit all over the place”.

He has licence to switch his position in mid-match without waiting for instructions from coach John Longmire.

“I think you’ve got to trust yourself and you’ve got to have confidence in yourself,” Heeney said.

“If I’m in the midfield, Horse backs me to go forward and try and take marks and kick a few goals as well.”

Heeney backed dropped ruckman Kurt Tippett to fight his way back, though Sam Naismith and Callum Sinclair dominated against the Bulldogs.

“The big boys played really well last night, but I think Tippo is just not playing as well as he would like to play at the moment,” Heeney said.

“He’ll go back to the NEAFL and just get confidence back; but I’m sure he’ll be back in the team soon.”

Election dents Scottish nationalists’ hopes for independence

Last year’s vote for Britain to leave the European Union had fuelled separatists’ ambitions to take Scotland out of the 300-year-old British union but the latest poll could serve to dash them again.

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“Indyref2 is dead, that’s what we have seen tonight,” Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said, using the separatist slogan.

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Davidson led her party to its best result in Scotland for three decades, in contrast to Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May’s dismal showing elsewhere in the UK.

The separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) nevertheless remains Scotland’s biggest party despite some punishing losses, including former first minister Alex Salmond as well as the party’s current deputy leader Angus Robertson.

Asked what the implications of the result would be for her hopes for independence, Sturgeon told the BBC: “I’m going to take time to reflect on this.

“I’m not going to rush to hasty judgements or decisions but clearly there is thinking for me to do about the SNP result,” he said.

She admitted that the prospect of independence had left Scotland “feeling uncertain”.

Scotland voted by 55 percent against independence in a 2014 referendum, but the defeated nationalists voted en masse for the SNP in 2015 handing them 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland.

May called a snap general election in an attempt to strengthen her hand in forthcoming Brexit talks — and quell the nationalists’ ongoing agitation for a second independence referendum.

She lost her parliamentary majority following a late surge for left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The election also saw a partial revival for Labour, which once dominated politics in Scotland but was reduced to just one Scottish lawmaker in 2015.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said her new MPs will be firm opponents of a second independence referendum.

She said: “The SNP vote is crumbling in their heartlands…it’s a very bad night for the SNP.”

Professor Iain Begg, from the London School of Economics, said it was a “disastrous” election for the SNP.

“The Scottish nationalists, losing more than 20 seats, that is very bad news for them and for any ambition Nicola Sturgeon has to call a second referendum,” he told AFP.

The SNP is expected to remain Britain’s third-largest party, giving Sturgeon the chance to seek a “progressive alliance” with Labour to lock May’s Conservative Party out of government.

Asked if there was a role for the SNP in a future government, Sturgeon said: “There may well be, but it is perhaps too early to say that.

“But we will want to play a role…in trying to, if we can, secure a progressive government at Westminster.”

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