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Russia mourns victims of deadly fire

Russians have gathered to mourn the victims of the Kemerovo shopping mall fire in Siberia.Flags have been flown at half-mast across Russia as the country mourns the victims, many of them children, of a shopping mall fire in Siberia.
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The blaze engulfed the four-story mall in the city of Kemerovo on Sunday while it was packed with parents and children on the first weekend of the school recess.

Investigators identified a short circuit as a possible cause and said the emergency exits were locked shut, hampering an evacuation. Some of the victims, many of them young children, died inside a locked movie theatre.

Wednesday was declared a day of mourning in Russia, and thousands of people have been bringing flowers and stuffed toys to makeshift memorials across the country.

The investigators have released 21 bodies for burial. The first funerals of the victims are to be held on Wednesday morning in Kemerovo, a city of half a million that has been paralysed with grief.

Thousands of angry and distraught residents rallied on Kemerovo’s main square on Tuesday for 10 hours, demanding that local officials conduct a full and transparent probe. Some locals mistrust the official reports that put the death toll at 64.

Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Vladlen Aksyonov told the RIA Novosti news agency on Wednesday that the bodies of all 64 victims have been recovered and that no one is unaccounted for.

Australian Associated Press

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OPINION: Another setback for the Empire Hotel site

TWO years after it bought the Empire Hotel site in Hunter Street for $2.8 million to build a high-rise tower with a component of “affordable housing”,the Maitland-Newcastle diocese of the Catholic Church has thrown in the towel, selling the site for a hefty $8.3 million, pocketing, on paper, a handy profit of $5.5 million in the process.
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The sale has not endeared the church to the Hunter Development Corporation –which sold it the land –or to some on Newcastle City Council, with Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen attacking the diocese for taking an “outrageous” profit and leaving the site “empty and boarded”.

For its part, the church has pointed to a combination of difficulties that it says combined to kill the project, some of which are directly related to the promised“affordable housing”.

This is important because governments, fearing that everyday workers are being priced out of city centres, have offered variousincentives to organisations providing officially defined “affordable housing”.

The church says that in the past few years it has successfully provided 74 affordable housing dwellings in suburban Hunter region surroundings, but that the state of the Newcastle CBD property market is such that the high-rise tower it was planning for the Empire site could not be built as a feasible economic proposition.

Having struggled to attract builder interest to the site, the church says it wasrushed with offers as soon as developers learned the land was for sale.

A few things are at play here. To start with, the Newcastle CBD property market has risendramatically in the past few years.

But more importantly, there is nothing obliging the new owner to buildaffordable housing. Yes, the approved tower has been granted some concessions on the basis of anaffordable housing component, but Bloc will likely negotiate a slightly altered DA, and finance the project based on higher sales prices than would have beenthe case with more thanhalf the building dedicated to affordable housing.

Hopefully, this will mean a building on this long-troubled site, sooner rather than later. As far as the finger pointing between the church, the council and HDC are concerned, only those involved will know the true state of those negotiations.

Either way, the church’s failure must inevitably put more pressure on HDC to succeed with its own affordable housing proposal on the rail corridor at Merewether Street.

ISSUE: 38,760.

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Govt introduces private healthcare reforms

Health Minister Greg Hunt says private health insurance reforms will secure the future of Australia.A suite of private health insurance reforms will help Australia maintain a strong and competitive private sector and protect the health system, Health Minister Greg Hunt says.
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The government introduced a series of reforms to parliament on Wednesday that includes allowing discounts for hospital coverage for people under 30, increasing the strength of the health insurance ombudsman and letting private health insurers cover travel and accommodation costs for rural and regional Australians attending health services.

“These reforms will therefore help strengthen the viability of the private health system by addressing concerns about affordability, complexity and lack of transparency of private health insurance,” Mr Hunt said.

The legislation would also allow private health insurance providers to increase customer excesses in exchange for lowering premiums for the first time since 2001.

The increased excess would be $750 for singles or $1500 for couples and families.

“Importantly customers can choose, and I emphasise choose, a higher excess in return for lower premium costs,” he said.

Australian Associated Press

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Slain hero of French attack honoured

Slain hero Colonel Arnaud Beltrame is being posthumously awarded the Legion of Honour.The slain hero of last week’s extremist attack in southern France is to be posthumously awarded the Legion of Honour by French President Emmanuel Macron.
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France’s highest award will be bestowed on Colonel Arnaud Beltrame on Wednesday, a day of national homage to him comprising a procession from Paris’ Pantheon and a ceremony at Hotel des Invalides.

Speaking on France Inter on Wednesday, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb confirmed the security services were about to reduce the surveillance on the attacker, Redouane Lakdim, who was on a radicalisation watch list.

“Ultimately no one thought that there would be a hasty attack,” he said.

Lakdim went on a rampage, killing four in a quiet corner of southern France on Friday. Beltrame died after swapping himself for a hostage during a siege in a supermarket.

Australian Associated Press

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A-League: Kanta in line for new role as Merrick looks to tap into game smarts

TRADING PLACES: Jets coach Ernie Merrick is considering moving Ben Kantarovski to the heart of defence for the clash against Melbourne City at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday. Picture: Jonathan CarrollJETS boss Ernie Merrick has likened Ben Kantarovski to having an on-field coach.
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The defensive midfielder is a natural leader. Although only recently turned 26, he is one of the most experienced players in the A-League. He made his debut aged 16, has been to two under-20 World Cups, captaining Australia at one, and is the climbing towards 200 games.

On the pitch,he is forever barking instructions from the base of midfield, pulling players in to shape, urging them to make runs or track back.

And it is thatgame smarts that Merrick plans to tap into.

Kantarovski trained in the heart of defence on Wednesday and is likely to start there alongside Nikolai Topor-Stanley against Melbourne City at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.

After conceding 25 goals in 22 games, the Jets have been opened up by Adelaide and Wellington. The Reds netted five goals. Phoenix went goalless, but they created 23 chances.

Ben Kantarovski says @NewcastleJetsFC remain positive ahed of clash with @[email protected]@newcastleheraldpic.twitter南京夜网/Whm2e0fP3m

— James Gardiner (@JamesGardiner42) March 28, 2018Listen to the thud. @NewcastleJetsFC South Americans hit the woodwork. @[email protected]南京夜网/H1h1uTBhbx

— James Gardiner (@JamesGardiner42) March 28, 2018Count the passes. I get 25. @NewcastleJetsFC in game mode ahead of possible finals dress rehearsal against @[email protected]@newcastleheraldpic.twitter南京夜网/78zQIcPCpX

— James Gardiner (@JamesGardiner42) March 28, 2018TweetFacebook Ben KantarovskiPictures: Fairfax photo library, AAP

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Senior Newcastle council staff go as restructure plan approved

Senior Newcastle council staff go as restructure plan approved Gone: Peter Chrystal was one of four senior Newcastle council staff members who departed council this week, along with Liz Burcham, Greg Essex and Andrew Baxter.
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Outbound: Cultural facilities director Liz Burcham was one of four senior staff to “part ways” with council on Wednesday, according to a statement from the city.

Decisions: Newcastle City Council CEO Jeremy Bath is leading the restructure – the details of which will be made public next week.

TweetFacebook Newcastle Herald understands each would be entitled to 38 weeks pay –believed to be a total of about $600,000.

“The organisation design will be shared in full with staff and the public next Tuesday,” he said.“The new structure will ensure staff more clearly understand their role and purposeand will deliver a better focus on servicing the community.”

Liberal councillor Brad Luke was not aware that the press release had been issued –or that the senior staff in question had departed –when contacted on Wednesday afternoon.

Read more: Newcastle council CEO investigating councillors’ communications

“It’s very concerning for the organisation,” he said.

“But I’m not surprised given the rumours going through the organisation.

“I’m very surprised council has put out a press release [about] this sort of loss today when staff aren’t being told [details of the restructure] until next week. A lot of people are going to be very stressed over Easter.”

But Mr Bath said the changes would affect only 21 senior staff members and he would meetwith each of them this week.

He said only four senior staff members would depart council as part of the restructure–their positions would no longer exist after ittakes effect on July 2.

Also part of the changes, council has reinstated director roles for Newcastle Art Gallery and Newcastle Museum. The managers of each –Lauretta Morton at the art gallery and Julie Baird at the museum –were named as the new directors.

Read more: Newcastle council restructure wrong: Robbo

Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the title of director was industry standard for cultural institutions.

“In their respective industry worlds, the title of director better ensures quality collections, astute acquisitions and also helps attract donations,” Cr Nelmes said.

“This change will further consolidate the importance of these facilities to our city.”

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Cowboys coach demands ‘reaction’ to loss

North Queensland coach Paul Green wants a ‘reaction’ from his squad in their NRL clash with Penrith.After delivering a memorable post-match spray, North Queensland coach Paul Green has demanded a “reaction” from the Cowboys in their NRL clash with Penrith in Townsville.
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Green let rip following last round’s 30-14 loss to Melbourne, accusing his players of believing their own press and that premiership hype had gone to their heads.

It was scathing stuff but Green said his players were quick to put their hand up and be accountable at training this week.

He said the signs were good for Penrith to cop the backlash on Thursday night.

“I’d like to think I get a reaction after last week,” Green said.

“Because there were a few disappointed heads after the game.

“But we have trained well since and they have been pretty honest.”

Green said he didn’t have to deliver another classic bake to get a reaction from his troops at training as they looked to snap their two game losing run.

Green confirmed fullback Lachlan Coote would return from a hamstring injury via their Queensland Cup feeder club Mackay this weekend.

Ben Hampton retains the No.1 jersey in an unchanged line-up against the Panthers.

But asked if he would be surprised if Coote ran out for North Queensland, Penrith coach Anthony Griffin said: “No, I wouldn’t be.”

Griffin insisted he wasn’t doing any foxing of his own by confirming Tyrone Peachey would start in the halves with James Maloney with exciting youngster Jarome Luai coming off the bench.

Peachey slots into five-eighth and Maloney at halfback after the Panthers’ luck ran out last round when prized playmaker Nathan Cleary (knee) went down in their 20-18 loss to the Bulldogs.

It will mark the first game Cleary has missed for Penrith since his debut in round 13, 2016.

“His strength is his running game. I think that will continue no matter where he plays,” Green said of Peachey who last played pivot in Round 2, 2016.

Griffin said rookie Luai could feature in the halves at some stage on Thursday night.

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Cowboys have won seven of the past nine games against the Panthers.

* The Cowboys are on a five match winning streak against the Panthers, dating to 2009.

* Penrith have just five wins from their past 19 games in Queensland, registering their last win on Gold Coast in round 25, 2016.

Australian Associated Press

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Whitsundays resort given green light

The $583 million redevelopment of Queensland’s Lindeman Island has been approved.A new resort planned for a long-dormant island in the Whitsundays will help revitalise the region after repeated natural disasters, the Queensland government says.
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The $583 million overhaul of the Lindeman Island resort has been on the cards since 2012, when Chinese media mogul William Han bought the wrecked site for $12 million in the wake of cyclone Yasi.

The Whitsundays region has since been hit again by cyclone Debbie in 2017, causing millions of dollars in direct damage and bringing about problems for the important tourism industry in the area.

State Development Minister Cameron Dick said resorts like Lindeman Island were key to ensuring the region fully recovered from the lingering effects of natural disasters.

“This project has the potential to deliver $100 million in value-adding to the local economy each year once it’s completed,” Mr Dick told reporters on Wednesday.

“This sort of investment is a real signal that we’re open for business, we’re open for investment, and we want our tourism and other industries to grow in Queensland.”

Pending some final approvals, the project is scheduled to start work in 2019 for completion in 2022.

It had faced backlash from local environment groups over plans to resume around 35 hectares of national park on the island as part of the resort development.

However Mr Dick said Mr Han’s company White Horse had since given assurances they wouldn’t have to do that, and have instead agreed to strict environmental conditions ensuring any land disturbed by the development be restored afterwards.

The resort will also not require the construction of an additional harbour as originally planned, which might have disturbed a nearby coral reef.

The project is estimated to generate 300 direct full-time equivalent jobs on the island as well as up to 460 full-time equivalent direct and indirect ongoing jobs in the Mackay region.

Around 550 guests will be able to stay at the resort once it’s completed, and features will include restaurants and a golf course.

Australian Associated Press

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Kelly’s killer allegedly punched inmate

Convicted killer Kieran Loveridge has faced court after a jail inmate was allegedly punched (file).The man serving time in jail for killing teenager Thomas Kelly with one punch in Sydney’s Kings Cross has been charged after he allegedly hit another inmate in a gang-related attack in jail.
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Kieran Loveridge, 24, allegedly punched Matthew Rymer – who is reportedly the president of the Rebels bikie gang’s Penrith chapter – at Silverwater jail on February 26.

The pair then began wrestling before correctional service officers intervened, a NSW Police spokeswoman told AAP on Wednesday.

Rymer, 34, was treated for facial injuries.

Police criminal group Strikeforce Raptor, which is charged with dismantling violent bikie gangs, investigated the attack and charged Loveridge with affray on Tuesday.

Loveridge, who won’t be released from jail until at least 2022 for the manslaughter of Mr Kelly nearly five years ago, appeared by video link in Burwood Local Court on Wednesday. Bail was formally refused.

Court documents suggest the February incident was gang-related and four witnesses saw the attack. The matter is due back at Burwood Local Court on April 11.

Detective Superintendent Deb Wallace said it was unclear what led to the fight.

“It could just be a chance meeting, we won’t know,” she told reporters in Sydney.

“This was just an incident that occurred, that often occurs, and we addressed it straight away.”

The 24-year-old was in 2013 sentenced to four years jail for Mr Kelly’s manslaughter, but a 2014 appeal by the director of public prosecutions meant Loveridge’s time behind bars was almost doubled.

He was ordered to serve a non-parole period of seven years meaning the earliest he could be released would be mid-November 2022.

Mr Kelly, 18, suffered catastrophic head injuries after Loveridge punched him once in an unprovoked attack at Sydney’s Kings Cross, in mid-2012.

In September 2015, Loveridge was moved from a NSW mid north coast correctional centre to Goulburn Supermax prison after allegations he had an affair with a female prison guard.

The guard, Jody Marson, was dismissed following investigations of an “improper relationship”.

Australian Associated Press

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Aust-first treaty laws in Vic parliament

Traditional land owners and Victorian politicians welcomed Australia’s first Aboriginal treaty laws.Traditional land owners sat alongside Victoria’s political leaders as Australia’s first Aboriginal treaty laws were introduced to state parliament.
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The first bill of its kind in Australia, Victoria is following in the footsteps of New Zealand and Canada in seeking a treaty between the government and first people.

“We all know that at the Commonwealth level, the Statement of the Heart – the Uluru Statement – that was rejected,” Treaty Advancement Commissioner Jill Gallagher told reporters outside parliament on Wednesday.

“We can be leaders in this not only in this country but in the world.”

Treaty working group chair Mick Harding and Ms Gallagher spoke about the bill in the lower house on Wednesday.

Mr Harding praised the proposal as “beautiful” and performed a traditional song to resounding applause, while Ms Gallagher said it was a step to “right the wrongs”.

“Let there be no mistake, there were crimes against humanity committed on our people in this country,” she said.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Natalie Hutchins said the government was “really walking the walk” towards achieving self determination for Aboriginal Victorians.

The bill will establish a representative body made up of 30 traditional owners by mid-2019, who will design a negotiations framework and create a fund to support groups who seek treaties with the state.

But the Greens, along with some Aboriginal Victorians are unhappy with the government’s approach.

Northcote MP Lidia Thorpe said the body slated to negotiate treaty is not inclusive enough and government must speak to clan representatives.

Elders Alma Thorpe, Lidia’s grandmother, and Beryl Booth at times were visibly upset in the gallery as the bill was discussed.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy told reporters on Wednesday morning the coalition in the past has opposed a treaty.

Debate on the bill continues.

Australian Associated Press

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