IN proceeding with its application to landscape the Market Street Lawn on the former heavy rail corridor, the state government’s UrbanGrowth NSW agency is putting forward a proposal that virtually nobody is going to argue with.
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After all, if the rail corridor is no longer needed for public transport – and there is a light rail stop right outside the park on Scott Street – what better way to fulfill the promise of a better-connected city than by creating an attractive vista from the Hunter Street mall northto Queens Wharf?

But the question marks over the corridor remain,at least for some. Even if most people have accepted –or even embraced – the prospectof light rail on the road east of Worth Place, theidea of building on the resultant vacant corridor is another decision altogether in many minds, at least until the light rail system has proved itself.

With the corridor still a political hot potato, it does not take a lot of imagination to realise what would happen if the government announced it was cutting a deal with a major developer to build a commercial/residential high rise on a corridor site.

It would be the Laman Street figs all over again. But it is very difficult to argue against education, so it wasprobably no coincidence that the first bricks and mortar project proposed for the corridor involved a planned extension of the University of Newcastle’sCBD presence.

In a similar light, Newcastle Greens councillor Therese Doyle is in no doubt that the state government intends wedging the council with the next cab off the development rank –an affordable housing project on the corridor west of Merewether Street – which is set to beunveiled in the coming weeks. Cr Doyle and others opposed to the loss of the heavy rail corridor say that Newcastle City Council’s co-operation in rezoning itto allow redevelopment is contingent on the government carrying out a comprehensive public transport study.

From the government’s perspective, the answer to that particular question is a forgone conclusion: the light rail route means that the section of the corridor it is considering for development is redundant, so the call for a study is little more than a delaying tactic. In the meantime, the government’sopening gambit of a park, a university building and an affordable housing project is designed to show that there is more to its plans for the corridor than a profit-driven land-grab.

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Attorney-General George Brandis has warned that the Islamic State group may scatter and form a “diaspora” caliphate around the world after its defeat in the Middle East.
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Senator Brandis has also told Fairfax Media that despite the military losses that have left its territorial control teetering in Iraq and Syria, the group poses no less threat to countries such as Australia, and he expressed concern about IS in the South-East Asian region.

He said he did not believe “anyone ever thought” that breaking up its territory in the Middle East would remove the IS threat.

Speaking as British authorities continued to probe possible IS links to the Westminster terrorist attack, Senator Brandis said that the idea of the caliphate – territory governed by its extreme interpretation of Islam – had been central to the group’s ambitions and its worldwide appeal.

But rather than just dispersing into a shadowy international terror network like al-Qaeda had been, it might cling on to a “diaspora” caliphate, including in parts of South-East Asia.

“The question that now arises is, particularly as west Mosul [in Iraq] falls and as al-Raqqa [in Syria] will undoubtedly fall, what becomes of ISIL?” he said, using an alternative acronym for the group.

“Does it reconceptualise itself as a more traditional or orthodox terrorist organisation, a bit more like al-Qaeda? Or does it displace its territorial ambitions from the Middle East to a diaspora elsewhere in the world?

“I suspect it will be a bit of both, but the latter will continue to be an important part of its conception of itself, which is very, very problematic.”

He said IS had declared what could be translated as “distant caliphates” such as parts of Libya, but had similar ambitions for sub-equatorial Africa, South Asia and South-East Asia.

He said it could also be regarded as a “metastasis” in that it would include returned fighters as well as new local adherents.

“And for us in Australia, of course, the area of greatest concern is South-East Asia,” he said.

Senator Brandis said that despite the military losses that IS is suffering in Iraq and Syria, it had become no less dangerous to the west, including Australia, although its capacity to attract Australians to go to fight in the Middle East had “fallen away somewhat”.

“I specifically do not say that the military defeat of ISIL on the ground in the Middle East has diminished the threat level in western countries for ISIL-inspired or encouraged or directed, localised attacks.”

Asked what the international coalition had, therefore, gained through its military successes in partnership with Iraqi and other local forces, Senator Brandis said: “I don’t think anyone ever thought that breaking up the caliphate would destroy the capacity of individuals now identified with ISIL to encourage terrorism in western countries.”

Senator Brandis said counter-terrorism co-operation with Indonesia was “very good” but the next step was a “regional architecture” to fight terrorism. He said Indonesia and Singapore were enthusiastic and that officials were engaging with Malaysia and the Philippines.

“It’s very important as well to talk about the Philippines because [the area] around Mindanao is basically a terrorist training base of the South-East Asian region.”

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Alex Sean Forth.
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A PROBATIONARY Rural Fire Service member who deliberately lit firesat Lochinvar, Keinbah, Bishops Bridge and Sawyers Gully and made numerous hoax calls to emergency services because he was bored and wanted to be called out to battle the blazes has been jailed for twoyears.

Alex Sean Forth, now 21, of Aberglasslyn, appeared in Newcastle District Court on Friday for sentence after pleading guilty to lighting four fires and making a false call to an emergency service number.

“I’d like to say that I’m sorry for what I did,” Mr Forth said from the witness box.

“My actions were unfair, especially to the RFS, the courts, the police and my family.

“And I’m ashamed of what I’ve done.”

When asked by his barrister, John Booth, why he had lit the fires, Forth replied: “stupidity would be my main answer, but principally it was for the call outs.

“Getting onto the RFS truck and going out on it.”

Forth said he “thoroughly enjoyed” working with the RFS and he set the fires so he could extinguish them.

Forth joined the NSW Rural Fire Service in September, 2015, and was attached to the Lochinvar Brigade as a probationary member.

But not long after he joined, there was a “significant spike in suspicious, deliberate or undetermined” bushfires in the area patrolled by the Lochinvar brigade.

Forth used “molotov cocktails” to start two separate fires in the Werakata National Park at Keinbah on April 15, 2016.

A week later he used the same method to start a scrub fire on Old North Road at Lochinvar.

Typically, after lighting a fire, Forthwould call triple-zero to report it and then drive to the station to prepare to head out with the crew.

But Forth began raising suspicion with his superiors.

On one occasion he called another volunteer and told him about a firebefore it was broadcast to members and another time hewas at the station within two minutes of RFS members being notified of a blaze.

Arson Investigators began physical and electronic surveillance of Forth and watched as he lit a fire in roadside scrub at Lochinvar on April 28. He was arrested when he arrived at the Lochinvar RFS station a short time later.

Judge Roy Ellis sentenced Forth to a maxmum of three-and-a-half years jail.

Forth, who has been in custody since his arrest on April 28, 2016, will be eligible for parole in April, 2018.

The Herald, Newcastle

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A major Liberal party benefactor will continue to withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cash-strapped party, with Michael Kroger set to remain president of the Victorian branch of the party.
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On April Fools’ Day the party holds its state conference, where Mr Kroger is set to be re-elected after challenger Peter Reith withdrew after suffering a stroke. He remains in hospital but is making progress in his recovery.

Mr Reith’s pitch to members had to been to clean up the party’s finances and bring major benefactor the Cormack Foundation back to the fold.

Mr Kroger and the foundation have been locked in a stand-off over the financial governance in the wake of the embezzlement of $1.5 million by former party director Damian Mantach.

The foundation, which includes senior business figures Hugh Morgan, John Calvert-Jones and Charles Goode, want Mr Kroger to separate the presidency from the chair of the finance committee.

Mr Kroger has previously told members the party was not set up so donors could tell it what to do and it was his work that uncovered Mr Mantach’s crime.

The refusal to hand over funds needed to run the party comes at a bad time for the state branch, which is struggling to balance the books, with the party taking on at least $1.72 million of debt.

“Cormack is keen to support the Liberal Party but if the governance is not correct, how can we channel the money there? It is as simple as that,” foundation chair Hugh Morgan told The Age.

Mr Kroger is also understood to be furious that the foundation gave money to Family First and the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Morgan did not wish to discuss donations to other conservative parties when asked by The Age.

While Mr Reith is no longer well enough to campaign, there is hope from anti-Kroger forces that people on Mr Reith’s ticket can still win critical positions in the executive and administrative committee of the party.

Former premier Jeff Kennett, who has agitated for a leadership change, has been approached to replace Mr Reith but has declined.

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