Stand-off continues over Sydney tent city

Gladys Berejiklian has accused Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore of playing “political games” over a homeless encampment in the city centre.

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“It has become increasingly clear that Clover Moore has no interest in resolving this issue and serving her ratepayers, but would rather play political games,” the NSW premier said in a statement on Sunday.

“We call on councillors of the City of Sydney to do their jobs and move against this blatant act of politicking at their council meeting on Monday night.”

Police Commissioner Mick Fuller and NSW Social Housing Minister Pru Goward previously urged Ms Moore to resolve the issue at crisis talks on Friday.

However, Ms Moore said the camp wouldn’t be dismantled until she was assured there was a long-term housing solution for the residents, dismissing the premier’s accusation of politicising the issue.

“I will not support moving on homeless without certainty they have support and permanent homes to go to,” Ms Moore said in a statement.

“That isn’t politicking, it is doing my job to support society’s most vulnerable, as my community expects.”

Ms Berejiklian in her statement on Sunday said that if the council didn’t do anything to resolve the issue, the state government would.

“The NSW government should not be required to do the job of council, but in extreme circumstances where the lord mayor will not do what is required and uses public property and people’s lives to make a statement, we may be forced to do so,” she said.

The police commissioner has indicated he wants a resolution by the end of the weekend – and that has placed the camp’s residents on edge.

Dubbed the Mayor of Martin Place, Lanz Priestley said camp organisers had an obligation to continue to provide safety, shelter, food and support to the residents, regardless of the talks going on behind closed doors.

“Touch wood someone will consult with us at some point along the line,” the camp organiser told AAP late on Saturday.

“They haven’t so far.”

Mr Priestley is concerned about the few lines of dialogue which have emerged from the discussions so far.

“I laughed when they started to call it a protest – protesters go home,” he said.

“But changing the narrative, getting people on board with the idea of this being a protest makes it political.

“They can be seen to smash a protest, they can’t be seen smashing a community of homeless people.”

Ms Goward on Sunday said Family and Community Services staff had been to the camp 44 times and had permanently housed 70 people.

$1.1b in cuts to hurt disadvantaged: Universities Australia

Universities are worried the federal government’s planned cuts will hit disadvantaged communities the hardest.

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A new analysis of the planned higher education overhaul shows universities will collectively lose $1.16 billion in base funding over the next four years from the so-called efficiency dividend the government wants to impose.

Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson says this highlights the significant impact of the cuts on the sector – one far from the benign impact she believes the government is trying to portray.

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“It will have a particularly severe impact on those universities that serve some of the most disadvantaged communities,” she told AAP on Sunday.

These universities tended to be younger and smaller, without large cash reserves or the ability to attract the kind of big donations older institutions could, she said.

In NSW, Western Sydney University – which caters to many low-socio economic status students who are often the first in their family to attend university – comes out as the biggest loser, set to cop a $54.1 million cut over the next four years, Universities Australia figures provided to a Senate committee examining the government’s package show.

However, half the 10 universities that will be hit with the biggest cuts in absolute terms are in the prestigious, research-intensive Group of Eight.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said university funding had been a “river of gold” for nearly a decade and was set to keep growing another 23 per cent over the next four years.

“As you’d expect from a lobby group, this shows only one part of the picture,” he said of the Universities Australia analysis.

The minister pointed to education department analysis showing per-student funding would be higher in 2020 than in 2011, although the modelling also shows it would be lower than in 2010 or any year from 2012 on.

The Innovative Research Universities group of six institutions disputed the government modelling, saying it was “over-egged”.

Universities serving disadvantaged communities will be most affected by government cuts, says Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson.AAP

It says much of the touted increase in per-student funding since 2010 has come from universities enrolling more students in higher cost courses.

At the same time, that change means institutions have to spend more to cover those students’ study because government payments for these courses are not indexed at a rate that keeps up with costs.

“Students need better resourced universities, not to pay more for less,” the IRU says.

It estimates its members will lose $43 million by 2021 under the government changes.

As well as the efficiency dividend, the government plans to lift student fees by up to $3600 over a four-year degree and link a portion of university funding to performance and transparency measures.

The Senate committee is expected to table its report on the package on Wednesday, although the legislation isn’t scheduled for debate this week.

BIGGEST LOSERS

* Monash University (Vic) – $57.4 million cut over four years

* Western Sydney University (NSW) – $54.1 million

* The University of Queensland (Qld) – $54 million

* The University of Sydney (NSW) – $51.7 million

* Deakin University (Vic) – $50.3 million

* Queensland University of Technology (Qld) – $47.7 million

* University of New South Wales (NSW) – $47.4 million

* Griffith University (Qld) – $47.3 million

* University of Melbourne (Vic) – $46.5 million

* RMIT University (Vic) – $44.3 million

* Curtin University of Technology (WA) – $41 million

(Source: Universities Australia)

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China and US pressure North Korea after sanctions vote

The United States and China piled pressure on North Korea Sunday to abandon its nuclear missile programme after the UN Security Council approved tough sanctions which could cost Pyongyang $1 billion a year.

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One day after Council members voted unanimously for a partial ban on exports aimed at slashing Pyongyang’s foreign revenue by a third, top diplomats from the key powers in the dispute met in Manila.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was encouraged by the vote, but officials warned that Washington would closely watch China, North Korea’s biggest trade partner, to ensure sanctions are enforced 

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China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his North Korean counterpart Ri Hong-Yo before a major regional security forum being hosted by the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  

He urged the North to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

“It will help the DPRK to make the right and smart decision,” Wang told reporters, speaking through a translator, after talks with Ri — referring to the sanctions and to Ri’s presence in Manila. 

Pyongyang’s top envoy has so far avoided the media in Manila. 

But in a characteristically fiery editorial before the latest sanctions were approved, the North’s ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun warned against US aggression.

“The day the US dares tease our nation with a nuclear rod and sanctions, the mainland US will be catapulted into an unimaginable sea of fire,” it said.

Tillerson also met Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and was to see Wang later on Sunday, seeking to intensify Kim Jong-Un’s diplomatic isolation and reduce the risk of renewed conflict.

“It was a good outcome,” Tillerson said of the UN vote, before a meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-Wha.

Senior US envoy Susan Thornton said Washington was “still going to be watchful” on the implementation of sanctions, cautioning that previous votes had been followed by China “slipping back”.

But she added China’s support for the UN resolution “shows that they realise that this is a huge problem that they need to take on”.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, is greeted by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.AAP

‘Military option’

The urgency of the situation was underlined by President Donald Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who told MSNBC news that the US leader was reviewing plans for a “preventive war”.

“He said he’s not going to tolerate North Korea being able to threaten the United States,” McMaster said. 

“It’s intolerable from the president’s perspective. So of course, we have to provide all options to do that. And that includes a military option.”

Saturday’s UN resolution banned exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore as well as fish and seafood by the cash-starved state.

If fully implemented it would strip North Korea of a third of its export earnings – estimated to total $3 billion per year despite successive rounds of sanctions since the North’s first nuclear test in 2006.

The resolution also prevents North Korea from increasing the number of workers it sends abroad. Their earnings are another source of foreign currency for Kim’s regime.

It prohibits all new joint ventures with North Korea, bans new investment in current joint companies and adds nine North Korean officials and four entities including the North’s main foreign exchange bank to the UN sanctions blacklist.

What next?

Trump hailed the vote saying in a tweet that the sanctions will have “very big financial impact!, ” and thanked Russia and China for backing a measure that either could have halted with their UN veto.

The United States began talks on a resolution with China a month ago, after Pyongyang launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4, followed by a second ICBM test on July 28.

But the measure does not provide for cuts to oil deliveries, which would have dealt a serious blow to the North’s economy.

China accounts for 90 percent of trade with North Korea, and Beijing’s attitude to its volatile neighbour will be crucial to the success or failure of the new sanctions regime.

China and Russia had resisted the US push, arguing that dialogue with North Korea was the way to persuade it to halt its military programmes.

Speaking to reporters after the council vote, Washington’s ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said “what’s next is completely up to North Korea.”

US officials have insisted that while Tillerson and Ri will be in the same room during the Manila forum, there would be no direct meeting between the two envoys.

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Campaigners welcome same-sex marriage bill

Marriage equality advocates have welcomed Liberal senator Dean Smith’s “strong and robust” proposal to allow same-sex marriage, in what they say is a exciting moment for their campaign.

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“There have been many bills for marriage equality but this is the strongest bill we have seen,” Australian Marriage Equality co-chair Alex Greenwich on Sunday told reporters in Sydney.

“It is a bill that is designed to pass the senate.

“Now we need parliament to work together to cross party lines and to achieve marriage equality together.”

Mr Smith and MPs Warren Entsch, Trevor Evans, Tim Wilson and Trent Zimmerman have circulated the private members’ bill to colleagues ahead of a party room meeting on the issue on Monday.

The Human Rights Law Centre says the bill allows same-sex couples to access to civil marriage while respecting religious beliefs.

“It’s important to remember that religious ministers can discriminate now and nothing will change under this bill,” director of legal advocacy Anna Brown told reporters in Sydney.

However, a new category of celebrant would give same-sex couples “the dignity and certainty of knowing that when they go to a civil marriage celebrant, they will be not refused service,” she said.

The Human Rights Law Centre in a statement added the bill would create a new category of military officer to allow members of the Australian Defence Force – who can only be married by a military chaplain – a secular option.

The coalition promised a plebiscite on same-sex marriage but has also floated the alternative of a postal vote.

Ms Brown and Mr Greenwich said a parliamentary vote was the only way forward.

“This should not be anything that is controversial,” Mr Greenwich said.

“This is all about letting loving, committed couples access to civil marriage while respecting the religious celebrating of marriage.”

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church says the proposed bill would not protect the religious freedom of Australian people.

“If passed, a bill like this would have grave consequences for all people of faith,” Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said in a statement.

“The free exercise of religion is a right afforded to every Australian, and a law which does not protect religious freedom for all people does not protect religious freedom at all.”

Brown urges NRL to avoid grandfather rule

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown has urged the NRL not to apply a grandfather rule for clubs hoping to remain under a new salary cap next season.

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As the wait continues on a new collective bargaining agreement to produce a new cap figure, Brown admits the Knights are banking on rivals being forced to shed players for overspending.

“All the clubs, regardless of what they say, everyone got the email eight or ten months ago and got told that you’ve got to work off $9.1 million,” Brown told Triple M.

“And if you go over it, it’s your responsibility to get under it.”

The NRL last week denied suggestions up to 11 clubs had overshot their budget for playing rosters next season and would need to offload players to stay in the black.

Canterbury is one club widely believed to have been shopping a number of contracted players after luring big-names Aaron Woods and Kieran Foran to Belmore in 2018.

Brown wants the governing body to ensure everyone’s books are clean.

“Some clubs have spent over it and took and chance, and probably found themselves in a situation where it’s probably left them a little bit vulnerable,” he said.

“Some clubs like us took a chance to stay under it in the hope of something good coming up.

“Let’s hope our friends at the NRL hold their nerve and do the right thing and make these clubs get under the cap and don’t allow some sort of grandfather rule which some are lobbying for.

“The clubs that are over budget and probably put the market into a bit of a spin, they’ve got to pay the price. But the NRL will decide that at the end of the day.”

Brown, who admitted his interest in signing Bulldogs skipper James Graham to the club should he be tapped on the shoulder, also believes most clubs will have little cap room to move.

That means the Knights could be in a position to dictate the player market.

“It’s like settling a house. If you haven’t got buyers, you can’t sell,” he said.

“Canterbury might not have a choice who they want to let go at the end of the day because if the NRL do the right thing and make them get under the cap like they should do, they may have to let a player go that they don’t want to let go.”