Call for rehab for heart attack survivors

Australian lives would be saved and health care costs cut if more heart attack survivors attended cardiac rehabilitation programs, new research shows.

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Increasing participation rates from the current 30 to 65 per cent would result in annual $35.5 million savings in health care costs and 2100 fewer heart attacks nationally.

The Heart Foundation says 430,000 Australians are living having survived a heart attack, but around 300,000 have not completed any form of the rehab programs on offer.

These may include physical activity, health education, counselling, behaviour modification strategies and support for managing a heart condition.

“Of the 55,000 heart attacks that will occur this year, each will cost around $30,000 in healthcare costs,” says the foundation’s chief medical advisor, Professor Garry Jennings.

“In stark contrast, a cardiac rehabilitation program costs the health system an average $885 per person to attend.”

Studies show that heart attack survivors who have taken part in a program are 40 per cent less likely to be readmitted to hospital and 25 per cent less likely to die from another heart attack.

“While the benefits are clear, many people aren’t referred to or don’t attend cardiac rehabilitation, leaving them at real risk of having another heart attack,” he said.

About 80 per cent of people advised to attend do so.

“A third of people being admitted to hospital for a heart attack have been there before – it isn’t their first heart attack but their second or third, putting major drain on our health services.”

The foundations wants the federal government to fund a national audit to highlight and overcome barriers to program participation.

Truckies road safety tribunal abolished

Federal parliament has scrapped the Gillard government’s road safety tribunal, skirting a minimum wage decision for owner-driver truckies.

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Legislation to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal passed the Senate without Labor’s support on Monday evening after two hours of debate.

The bill passed 36 to 32 with the support of the crossbench except Motoring Enthusiast Ricky Muir.

The government slipped the bill into this week’s parliamentary agenda after MPs and senators were called back to Canberra by the governor-general at the request of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday to consider industrial reform bills.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission bills were voted down by the Senate on Monday evening, handing Mr Turnbull a trigger for a double-dissolution election on July 2.

Labor and the Greens slammed the government’s decision to abolish the tribunal, labelling it an attack on hardworking Australians.

Senior Labor senator Stephen Conroy said Australian roads would be less safe as a result of the decision and accused Mr Turnbull of using truckies as a pawn in his political game.

“What a comedy – Mr Turnbull pretending he cares about truck drivers,” he told parliament.

“This prime minister doesn’t care about road safety. He doesn’t care about the families of the victims who die.”

The coalition used its numbers to gag debate on the abolition on Monday evening before the lower house passed the bill and sent it to the Senate.

Nationals MP Mark Coulton told parliament the decision deprived owner-driver truckies from achieving the great Australian dream of being your own boss.

He said the decision forced drivers to park their trucks because they can’t compete against bigger transport companies.

Employed truck drivers were not covered by the minimum pay decision, only drivers who own their own vehicles, making it cheaper for bigger companies who employ drivers.

Mr Coulton, who holds a heavy vehicle driver’s licence, said owner-drivers would have to charge a higher rate than the average to comply with the rules.

They had two options: break the law and hope they weren’t caught or charge the higher rate and miss out on the job.

“This is not about safety, this is about anti-competitive behaviour,” he said.

Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne argues there is no tangible safety outcome from the tribunal.

Mr Pyne says it’s vital to abolish the body to ensure owner-truck drivers can keep working.

“This is about those operators who just want to earn a living so they can continue to sponsor their local sporting club, St John’s Ambulance or their children’s school without having their livelihood threatened,” he told parliament.

Turnbull has trigger for July 2 election

Australians look set to go to the polls on July 2 after the Senate shot down the federal government’s attempt to restore the building industry watchdog.

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The federal government was handed the trigger for a double-dissolution election on Monday night when the Senate again rejected legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

The bills were defeated 36-34, with crossbenchers Jacqui Lambie, Glenn Lazarus, Ricky Muir and John Madigan siding with Labor and the Greens.

MPs and senators were recalled to Canberra on Monday by Governor-General Peter Cosgrove at Mr Turnbull’s request, in a constitutional move not used for 40 years, to consider the industrial reform bills.

Mr Turnbull has vowed to use a second rejection of the bills as a trigger for a July 2 election, insisting the construction industry needs a cop on the beat to stamp out misconduct following last year’s damning royal commission report into union corruption.

Attorney-General George Brandis says the government is prepared to take the Senate’s rejection of its union legislation to the Australian people.

But he insists Australia won’t really be in an election campaign until parliament is dissolved and writs for an election are issued.

The government still plans to deliver its budget on May 3.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Labor is ready for an election, whenever it is.

“This will be a contest between Labor putting people first, and a Liberal Party looking after vested interests and the big banks.”

Senator Lambie says the government have never properly negotiated with crossbenchers.

“If I was going after your vote, you would be that sick of me in your face, you’d pretty much want to take me out,” she told ABC TV.

“I never felt like that with the minister.”

She says the ABCC is absolutely not a justifiable trigger for an early election – most people have no understanding of the legislation nor any interest in it.

A double-dissolution election means both houses of parliament are dissolved and all seats are up for grabs. Only half of the Senate would be up for re-election in a regular election.

Treasurer Scott Morrison’s Budget 2017 speech in full

Thank you Mr Speaker, I move that this Bill now be read a second time.

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For many years now, as our economy has gone through major changes, Australians have had to dig deep to keep our economy on the right track.

During this time we have consistently outperformed the top advanced economies in the world.

However, not all Australians have shared in this hard won growth. Many remain frustrated at not getting ahead.

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This is especially true in areas where technological change, globalisation and the end of the mining investment boom has had a significant impact.

Small business owners have gone without to keep their businesses open. Australians have taken second jobs, where they can, so bills can be paid.

And it’s been a fair while since most hardworking Australians have had a decent pay rise.

I know this has put real pressure on Australians and on their families. Terribly, this has meant some families have even broken apart.

I believe, though, that we are now moving towards the end of this difficult period.

Treasurer introduces Budget to parliament

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The signs of an improving global economy are there to see.

There is clearly the potential for better days ahead.

But success cannot be taken for granted. We must be determined to secure our opportunities.

This Budget is about making the right choices to secure the better days ahead.

Our choices are based on the principles of fairness, security and opportunity.

We must choose to focus on growing our economy to secure more and better paying jobs.

We cannot succumb to the laziness that thinks growth will take care of itself.

We must choose to guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on.

We cannot underestimate just how important these services are to people.

We must choose to tackle cost of living pressures for Australians and their families.

We cannot agree with those who say there is nothing that the Government can do.

And we must choose to ensure the Government lives within its means.

Because we cannot pass a burden and forsake our obligations to the next generation.

Mr Speaker, tonight I announce a fair and responsible path back to a balanced budget.

Having exhausted every opportunity to secure savings from our 2014-15 and 2015-16 Budgets, we have decided to reset the Budget by reversing these measures at a cost of $13 billion.

Despite this, I can confirm tonight that the Budget is projected to return to balance in 2020-21 and remain in surplus over the medium term.

The underlying cash balance will improve from a forecast deficit of $29.4 billion in 2017-18 to a projected surplus of $7.4 billion in 2020-21.

Growth in payments has been restricted to less than 2.0 per cent per year.

Since coming to Government we have arrested growth in our debt by more than two-thirds.

Around three quarters of the increase in our debt since 2007-08 has been driven by welfare, health and education spending.

To respect future taxpayers, this everyday spending should be funded from the first dollar we receive in taxes, not debt.

The Budget papers show, after you take into account the net operating balance, infrastructure grants, and non-cash accounting provisions, the Government will no longer be borrowing to pay for our everyday expenses from 2018-19.

There is now a clear and growing consensus that the global economic outlook is improving.

We have positioned Australia well to take advantage.

Morrison on Australian economy

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At home, we expect real growth to rebound to three percent over the next two years, after a temporary slowing this year, that takes into account Cyclone Debbie.

Household consumption, non-mining business investment and exports are expected to support growth.

Wage growth is expected to increase from around two per cent to above three per cent over the next four years.

Given commodity prices continue to be volatile, we have maintained conservative assumptions.

Mr Speaker, in this Budget, we have chosen to grow our economy to support more and better paying jobs.

For the past year we have been delivering our national economic plan for jobs and growth.

The first phase of our enterprise tax plan is now law. Our export trade deals are bearing fruit, with additional access secured. And our investments in science and innovation and our defence industries are breaking ground.

Tonight we add to this plan.

And we start by backing in small business even further.

Small business owners are out there fighting for growth in their businesses every day. They deserve our respect and support.

Backing up our recently legislated tax cuts, small businesses with a turnover up to $10 million will continue to be able to immediately write off expenditure up to $20,000 for a further year.

And we will take further action to reward States and Territories that cut red tape costs for small business.

To support growth we choose to invest in building Australia, rail by rail, runway by runway and road by road.

We will establish the Western Sydney Airport Corporation to build and operate the new Western Sydney airport, creating 20,000 jobs by the early 2030s and 60,000 in the longer term.

We will inject up to $5.3 billion in equity over the next ten years into this company.

Earth moving works will commence on the 1800-hectare site in the second half of next year and Western Sydney Airport will be delivered in 2026.

The Snowy Mountains Scheme is the benchmark for nation building infrastructure.

The Prime Minister has announced our intention to further develop the Snowy Hydro with Snowy 2.0. Tonight we announce our intention to go further.

The Commonwealth is open to acquiring a larger share or outright ownership of Snowy Hydro, from the NSW and Victorian State Governments, subject to some sensible conditions.

First, all funds received by the States would need to be reinvested in priority infrastructure projects.

Second, Snowy Hydro’s obligations under its water licence would be reaffirmed and we would commit to work together to expedite and streamline environmental and planning processes associated with Snowy 2.0, without compromising any standards or controls.

Third, Snowy Hydro would have to remain in public hands.

We have already begun discussions with NSW and invited similar discussions with Victoria.

Tonight, we announce we will deliver $75 billion in infrastructure funding and financing over the next ten years.

$844 million will be used to upgrade the Bruce Highway, including $530 million for works from Pine Rivers to Caloundra.

In Western Australia we are investing $1.6 billion in infrastructure, including funding for better road access to the Fiona Stanley Hospital precinct.

In Victoria, we will make $1 billion available for regional rail and other infrastructure projects, including $30 million to develop a business case for a rail link to Tullamarine Airport. A new $500 million Victorian regional rail fund will include $100 million for the duplication of the Geelong-Waurn Ponds line.

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In addition, the Turnbull Government will establish a $10 billion National Rail Programme to deliver rail projects that provide better connections for our cities and regions and create new opportunities to grow our economy.

Projects such as Adelink, Brisbane Metro, Tullamarine Rail link, Cross River Rail in Brisbane, and the Western Sydney Airport Rail link, all have the potential to be supported through this programme, subject to a proven business case.

It is important to invest in infrastructure, but we have to make the right choices on projects, as part of a broader economic growth strategy.

Our new Infrastructure and Projects Financing Agency will help us make those right choices, recruiting people with commercial experience to ensure we use taxpayers’ money wisely.

We must also choose to invest specifically for growth in our regions.

The Productivity Commission recently highlighted that some regional areas have been disconnected from our national growth.

So we will establish a $472 million Regional Growth Fund to back in the plans that regional communities are making to take control of their own economic future. This includes $200 million in funding to support a further round of the successful Building Better Regions programme.

In one of the biggest investments ever seen in regional Australia, the Government will fund the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project with $8.4 billion in equity to be provided to the Australian Rail Track Corporation. Construction on this 1,700 kilometre project will begin in 2017-18 and will support 16,000 jobs at the peak of construction. It will benefit not just Melbourne and Brisbane, but all the regions along its route.

Skilled migration has always played a significant role in driving our economic growth.

But it must be on our terms and we must skill more Australians to secure jobs.

Until now, employers have had to contribute 1 or 2 per cent of their payroll to training if they employ foreign workers. These requirements have proven difficult to police.

Accordingly, we are replacing these requirements with an annual foreign worker levy of $1,200 or $1,800 per worker per year on temporary work visas and a $3,000 or $5,000 one-off levy for those on a permanent skilled visa.

Over the next four years, $1.2 billion will be raised from this levy that will contribute directly to a new Commonwealth-State Skilling Australians Fund.

States and Territories will only be able to draw on this fund when they deliver on their commitments to train new apprentices.

Mr Speaker, in this Budget we have chosen to guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on.

The first duty of a national Government is to keep Australians safe.

In 2020-21, we will meet our commitment to increase defence spending to two per cent of GDP, three years ahead of schedule.

We are supporting our 2,300 Defence force personnel serving overseas.

We are investing over $300 million to ensure the AFP can continue to lead the charge against terrorism, organised crime, child exploitation and other crimes.

And we will continue to ensure Operation Sovereign Borders has the resources needed to do its job.

I know that ‘stopping the boats’ was something many said could not be done. What others mocked as a slogan we turned into an outcome.

Every Australian understands the importance of health care.

Medicare freeze lifted

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Tonight, we put to rest any doubts about Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

We are lifting the freeze on the indexation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

We are also reversing the removal of the bulk billing incentive for diagnostic imaging and pathology services and the increase in the PBS co-payment and related changes.

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The cost of reversing these measures is $2.2 billion over the next four years.

Tonight, I also announce we will legislate to guarantee Medicare and the PBS with a Medicare Guarantee Bill.

This new law will set up a Medicare Guarantee Fund to pay for all expenses on the Medicare Benefits Schedule and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Proceeds from the Medicare Levy will be paid into the fund.

An additional contribution from income tax revenue will also be paid into the Medicare Guarantee Fund to make up the difference.

The Bill will provide transparency about what it really costs to run Medicare and the PBS and a clear guarantee on how we pay for it.

$1.2 billion in new medicines will be made available, including for patients with chronic heart failure, funded by an agreement to decrease the cost of medicines for taxpayers.

The Commonwealth will increase hospitals funding by an additional $2.8 billion over four years.

Significantly, we will invest an additional $115 million in mental health, including funding for rural telehealth psychological services, mental health research and to prevent suicide.

We will also invest $1.4 billion in ground-breaking health research over the next four years, including $65.9 million this year, to help research into children’s cancer.

All up, our commitments equate to a $10 billion re-investment in Australia’s health care over four years, including the $2.8 billion increase in hospital funding.

They are underpinned by cornerstone partnerships struck by the Health Minister with our doctors, specialists, pharmacists and the medicines sector.

And tonight we have chosen to close the funding gap for our National Disability Insurance Scheme once and for all.

The funding gap is currently $55.7 billion over the next ten years. We have previously sought to close this gap with budget savings that we have not been able to get through the Parliament.

To ensure the NDIS is fully funded we will legislate to increase the Medicare Levy by 0.5 percentage points in two years’ time, when the extra bills start coming in.

Treasurer speaks on NDIS

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This will also provide further time to explain to Australians what the NDIS will deliver.

Even if we are not impacted directly, this is all our responsibility.

Our decision to increase the Levy reflects the fact that all Australians have a role to play.

I also announce a commitment of $80 million for Australians with a mental illness such as severe depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia and post-natal depression resulting in a psychosocial disability, including those who had been at risk of losing their services during the transition to the NDIS.

The Turnbull Government will continue to invest record amounts in education.

After reversing proposed savings from the 2014-15 Budget, we will invest $18.6 billion in extra funding to educate our children in all schools over the next ten years.

Our schools funding package delivers a fairer and simpler way to meet our shared commitment to educate each and every child, in accordance with the Gonski needs-based standard.

In addition to the funds provided by the GST to the States, we will meet 20 per cent of the needs-based funding for every student in our public school system and 80 per cent for students in non-government schools by 2027. Funding for each student across all sectors will grow at an average of 4.1 per cent each year.

In Higher Education, we are launching a fairer system, with students asked to pay a bit more for their own education costs. However taxpayers will continue to subsidise more than half the cost of each student’s higher education.

A 2.5 per cent efficiency dividend will be applied to universities for the next two years to ensure taxpayers and students get better value for their investments.

This Budget also delivers important increased support for veterans mental health, protections for children within the family justice system, victims of domestic violence, closing the gap for Indigenous Australians and creating the National Redress Scheme for victims of institutional child sexual abuse.

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Mr Speaker, in this Budget we have chosen to place downward pressure on rising costs of living.

The Prime Minister’s energy security plan provides reliable and affordable energy for Australians, coping with rising electricity prices.

He is securing access to our gas resources for domestic use. We have set aside around $90 million for this task in this budget.

He is ensuring energy consumers and businesses get a fairer deal, by funding the ACCC to investigate and police competition in retail electricity and gas markets.

The Prime Minister is working to improve energy regulation, with additional funding tonight to improve gas market efficiency and transparency.

He is investing in new generation, transmission and storage capacity. This includes Snowy 2.0, around $37 million to South Australia for new energy infrastructure and funding to prove up gas pipeline proposals to South Australia from Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

And more than $3 billion has already been provided to support new emissions technologies.

To support older Australians we are restoring the pensioner concession card to those impacted by the pension assets test change introduced earlier this year.

As a result, they will regain access to state and territory based concessions that were withdrawn after the change.

And we want customers and taxpayers to get a fairer deal from our banks.

For the system to be fairer, there needs to be greater competition and accountability – now.

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In response to the Ramsay Review, we are establishing a simpler, more accessible and more affordable one-stop shop for Australians to resolve their disputes and obtain binding outcomes from the banks and other financial institutions, to be known as the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

A new Banking Executive Accountability Regime will be introduced, requiring all senior executives to be registered with APRA. If in breach, they can be deregistered and disqualified from holding executive positions, and be stripped of their significant bonuses.

Banks will also be held to account if they try and hide misconduct by executives with new mandatory reporting requirements.

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If banks breach misconduct rules, they will also face bigger fines starting at $50 million for small banks and $200 million for large banks.

As recommended by the Coleman Committee, a permanent team will be established within the ACCC to investigate competition in our banking and financial system.

The introduction of an open banking regime in 2018 will give customers greater access to their own data, empowering them to seek out better and cheaper services.

Tonight, I also announce a new six-basis point levy on the big banks’ liabilities, starting on July 1.

This represents an additional and fair contribution from our major banks, is similar to measures imposed in other advanced countries, and will even up the playing field for smaller banks.

The levy will only affect our five largest banks with assessed liabilities of $100 billion or more and does not apply to superannuation funds or insurance companies.

Importantly, customer deposits of less than $250,000 and additional capital requirements imposed on the banks by regulatory authorities are excluded from their assessed liabilities.

Unlike the previous bank deposit tax, this is specifically not a levy on pensioners’ and others’ ordinary deposit accounts, nor is it on home loans.

This measure will secure $6.2 billion over the Budget and forward estimates to support budget repair, including the reversal of significant budget savings measures.

We have also chosen to put downward pressure on rising housing costs.

If a family or an individual has a roof over their head that they can rely on, then all of life’s other challenges become more manageable.

Whether you are saving to buy a home, spending a high proportion of income on your rent, waiting for subsidised housing, or you’re homeless, this is an important issue to you.

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There are no silver bullets to make housing more affordable. But by adopting a comprehensive approach, by working together, by understanding the spectrum of housing needs, we can make a difference.

We will work with the States and Territories and local Governments to get more homes built, because prices are higher where demand is greater than supply.

The Commonwealth will replace the National Affordable Housing Agreement that provides $1.3 billion every year to the States and Territories, with a new set of agreements, with the same funding, requiring the States to deliver on housing supply targets and reform their planning systems.

We will also establish a $1 billion National Housing Infrastructure Facility, based on a UK model, to fund ‘micro’ city deals that remove infrastructure impediments to developing new homes.

An online Commonwealth land registry will be established detailing sites that can be made available for residential development.

In Melbourne, land for a new suburb that could cater for 6,000 new homes will be unlocked just 10km from the CBD, by releasing surplus Defence land at Maribyrnong.

The Turnbull Government will also help deliver tens of thousands of new homes needed in Western Sydney as part of our Western Sydney city deal.

A new National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation will be established by July 1 next year to provide long-term, low-cost finance to support more affordable rental housing. States and Territories will also be encouraged to transfer stock to the community housing sector.

Other measures to address supply include: allowing Managed Investment Trusts to be used to develop and own affordable housing, providing investors in affordable housing with greater income certainty by enabling direct deduction of welfare payments from tenants, and increasing the capital gains tax discount to 60 per cent for investments in affordable housing.

These measures will also support State, Territory and local governments imposing inclusionary zoning requirements on new development sites and provide more vehicles for superannuation funds to invest in affordable housing.

And tonight I announce $375 million for a permanent extension of homelessness funding to the States, with a continued focus on supporting young people and victims of domestic violence.

On the demand side, for those who are trying to save to buy their first home, we will support them by providing a tax cut on their first home deposit savings.

First home buyers will be able to save for a deposit by salary sacrificing into their superannuation account over and above their compulsory superannuation contribution from July 1.

Budget to help first home buyers

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The First Home Super Savers Scheme will attract the tax advantages of superannuation. Contributions and earnings will be taxed at 15 per cent, rather than marginal rates, and withdrawals will be taxed at their marginal rate, less 30 percentage points.

Savers will not have to set up another account, they can just use their existing super account and decide how much of their income they want to put aside to save for their first home deposit.

Contributions will be limited to $30,000 per person in total and $15,000 per year.

Under this plan, most first home savers will be able accelerate their savings by at least 30 per cent.

We will encourage older Australians to free up housing stock, by enabling downsizers over the age of 65 to make a non-concessional contribution of up to $300,000 into their superannuation fund from the proceeds of the sale of their principal home.

And on demand management, we will continue to prefer the scalpel to the chainsaw, to avoid a housing shock.

Mum and dad investors will continue to be able to use negative gearing, supporting the supply of rental housing and placing downward pressure on rents.

Our regulatory agencies will continue to use the flexible and calibrated controls they have available.

And we will legislate to extend APRA’s ability to apply controls to the non-ADI sector and explicitly allow them to differentiate the application of loan controls by location.

Even tougher rules on foreign investment in residential real estate will be introduced, removing the main residence capital gains tax exemption, and tightening compliance.

We will also apply an annual foreign investment levy of at least $5,000 on all future foreign investors who fail to either occupy or lease their property for at least six months each year.

And we will restore the requirement that prevents developers from selling more than 50 per cent of new developments to foreign investors.

Treasurer on foreign investment

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Together, these measures represent a comprehensive package that can make a difference.

Finally Mr Speaker, we have chosen to ensure the Government lives within its means.

We will continue our crackdown on multinationals not paying their fair share of tax.

The ATO has already raised $2.9 billion in tax liabilities this year against a group of just seven large multinational companies, and expects to raise more than $4 billion in total this financial year from large public companies and multinationals.

Tonight we are toughening the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law to extend the rules to structures involving foreign partnerships or trusts and clamping down on aggressive structuring using hybrids.

We will also be introducing new tax integrity measures as recommended by our Black Economy Taskforce.

We will continue the fight against serious financial and organised crime by providing the Australian Taxation Office with additional funding to chase and tax the crooks.

From 1 July 2017, the Government will improve the integrity of negative gearing by disallowing deductions for travel expenses and, for properties bought after today, the Government will also limit plant and equipment depreciation deductions to only those expenses directly incurred by investors.

Together all of these measures are estimated to provide a gain to revenue of $2.1 billion over the forward estimates.

And we will continue to stop people trying to take an easy ride on our welfare system to protect it for those who need it most.

The best way to get your welfare budget under control is to get Australians off welfare and into work.

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We will support young parents to get jobs by expanding the successful ParentsNext programme from 13,000 vulnerable young parents to 68,000 in more than 20 new locations, especially those with high Indigenous populations.

The programme supports young parents, mainly mothers, with child care, pre-employment training, financial literacy and numeracy skills and linking up with other education and training opportunities.

We are also strengthening mutual obligation requirements.

Those who do not meet their responsibilities and either fail to turn up to appointments or take on suitable work will face escalating financial penalties, ranging from reduced to cancelled payments.

We want to support job seekers affected by drug and alcohol abuse, but to protect taxpayers, it has to be a two-way street.

We will no longer accept, as an excuse from repeat offenders, that the reason they could not meet their mutual obligation requirements was because they were drunk or drug-affected.

In addition we will commence a modest drug testing trial for 5,000 new welfare recipients.

JobSeeker recipients who test positive would be placed on the Cashless Debit Card for their welfare payments and be subjected to further tests and possible referral for treatment.

Other welfare measures include: strengthening verification requirements for single parents seeking welfare, a crackdown on those attempting to collect multiple payments, stricter residency rules for new migrants to access Australian pensions, and denying welfare for a disability caused solely by their own substance abuse.

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Conclusion

Mr Speaker, this is a responsible Budget.

It sets out a credible and affordable plan, based on the principles of fairness, security and opportunity.

Above all this is an honest Budget.

It is honest about our challenges and opportunities.

It does not pretend to do things with money we do not have.

It does not indulge simplistic solutions to what we know are complex problems.

This is a Budget that makes the right choices for Australians who are working hard to secure the better days ahead for themselves and their families.

That is why this Budget is a plan that can be trusted and supported.

So to be clear, our plan is,

*to grow our economy to create more and better paid jobs,

*to guarantee the essentials that Australians rely on,

*to reduce cost of living pressures, and

*to ensure that the government lives within its means.

Once again Mr Speaker, I commend our plan, this Budget and this Bill to the House.

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Treasurer Scott Morrison hands down 2017 Federal Budget

He says the measures contained in his Budget are about making the “right choices, to secure better days ahead.

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But with tough welfare changes among his choices, this Budget may prove controversial.

In handing down his 2017/18 Budget, Treasurer Scott Morrison is appealing to Australians who are feeling the pinch.

“Small business owners have gone without to keep their businesses open. Australians have taken second jobs, where they can, so bills can be paid. And it’s been a fair while since most hardworking Australians have had a decent pay rise.”

Mr Morrison says this Budget seizes on clear signs that global economic conditions are improving.

But he notes that he’s had to abandon the so-called zombie measures – mostly those measures from Joe Hockey’s 2014 Budget – that the government was unable to pass through the parliament.

“Having exhausted every opportunity to secure savings from our 2014-15 and 2015-16 Budgets, we have decided to reset the Budget by reversing these measures at a cost of $13.5 billion. Despite this, I can confirm tonight that the Budget is projected to return to balance in 2021 and remain in surplus over the medium term.”

He says the underlying cash balance will improve from a forecast deficit of $29.4 billion in 2017-18 to a projected surplus of $7.4 billion in 2020-21.

The Treasurer says this Budget targets four main areas:

– Stronger growth to deliver “more and better-paying jobs”;

– Guaranteeing essential services;

– Easing cost of living pressures by improving access to affordable housing;

– And, ensuring the government lives within its means.

On stronger growth, he’s targeted one particular sector for special support:

“Small business owners are out there fighting for growth in their businesses every day. They deserve our respect and support.”

An Abbott government measure allowing small businesses to instantly deduct assets has been extended and there are incentives for state and territory governments to cut compliance paperwork requirements.

As for easing cost of living pressures for Australians:

“To support older Australians, we are restoring the pensioner concession card to those impacted by the pensions assets test change introduced earlier this year. As a result, they will regain access to State and Territory-based concessions that were withdrawn after the change.”

Mr Morrison also wants a fairer deal for bank customers:

“Tonight, I also announce a new six-basis point levy on the big banks’ liabilities, starting on July 1. This represents an additional and fair contribution from our major banks, is similar to measures imposed in other advanced countries, and will even up the playing field for smaller banks. The levy will only affect our five largest banks, with assessed liabilities of $100 billion or more, and does not apply to superannuation funds or insurance companies.”

He’s warned the banks not to pass the levy straight on to customers.

Bank executives will be required to register with industry regulator APRA, which will also be able to remove or disqualify executives.

There’ll also be a new Australian Financial Complaints Authority to provide a simpler, faster resolution of disputes.

Housing is a key area for change, with the government planning to introduce a new scheme allowing first-home buyers to save money within their superannuation funds.

While Australians aged over 65 can take up to $300,000 they save by downsizing to a smaller home, and put it into their superannuation fund.

The Budget also revealed new measures to restrict foreign investment in property.

Mr Morrison’s plan to keep the Turnbull government living within its means includes measures continuing to target multinational corporations that aren’t paying their fair share of tax.

But, in what may become the most controversial measures of the 2017 budget, he’s promised big changes to welfare.

“We will continue to stop people trying to take an easy ride on our welfare system, to protect it most importantly for those who need that safety net most. The best way to get your welfare budget under control is to get Australians off welfare and into work. The best form of welfare is a job.”

Thousands of young welfare recipients across three trial sites will be subjected to random drug testing.

A new welfare point system will be aimed at people who persistently dodge their job-seeking obligations.

Cashless welfare card trials will be extended for another year and expanded to two new locations over two years.

In addition, job seekers who fail the government’s proposed drug testing regime will be placed on the Cashless Debit Card system for their welfare payments.

No federal funds for Qld cross river rail

The Queensland government’s key infrastructure project has failed to receive funding in the federal budget, leaving the state to pick up the slack.

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The Palaszczuk government has been calling on the federal government to at least match its $850 million funding commitment to start work on a second river crossing for the state capital.

Instead the budget sets up a 10-billion-dollar National Rail Program, which has a pool of money available, meaning Cross River Rail will have to fight for funding against other projects including the Tullamarine Rail Link, and the Western Sydney Airport Rail Link.

Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt said in addition, the money in that fund won’t be available until at least 2019.

“Yet again other states get direct funding injections but Queensland has to jump through hoops,” Mr Pitt said.

“Cross River Rail is the number one priority for the state, and the reason it is our number one priority is because it’s a project that must happen.”

The lack of federal funds will now put pressure on Mr Pitt to fill the gap in the upcoming June state budget, but he stopped short of ruling out Cross River Railwill getting under way by the end of the year.

“We’re not ruling anything in or out, we’ve seen the promise of future funding but no money allocated to our project, so we’ll prosecute our argument strongly.”

There is a major rail project for Queensland, in the form of the $8.4 billion Brisbane to Melbourne inland rail project.

Queensland will also see $844 million worth of upgrades to the Bruce Highway, as well as $200 million for community infrastructure in regional areas under the Building Better Regions Fund, and grants of up to $10 million over four years under a new $272 million Regional Growth Fund.

US anti-Muslim incidents rising: report

When the Masjid Al-Kareem mosque in Providence, Rhode Island, received a threatening letter calling Muslims a “vile and filthy people,” its members were so frightened they asked for and got extra police protection.

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The 42-year-old mosque was far from alone.

November’s letter was one of 2,213 anti-Muslim incidents in the US last year, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

It found a 57 per cent increase in the number of incidents last year, up from 1,409 in 2015.

Incidents increased five per cent from 2014 to 2015.

The group had seen a rise in anti-Muslim incidents prior to Donald Trump’s stunning campaign and election victory but it said the acceleration in “bias incidents” was due in part to Trump’s focus on militant Islamist groups and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Trump promised during his campaign to impose a temporary ban on Muslims coming to the US, a move which has since been blocked by challenges in court.

While Rhode Island’s oldest mosque was only threatened, others in Florida and Texas were set ablaze by arsonists.

The report included incidents from assaults and street harassment to employment discrimination and what CAIR considers unwarranted contact by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

It also showed a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes to 260 in 2016, up 44 per cent from 180 a year earlier.

That includes all crimes recorded where CAIR saw evidence of anti-Muslim bias, not just those where hate crime charges were brought, director of the CAIR department on monitoring and combating Islamophobia, Corey Saylor, said.

“There was this widespread sense that we were going right back to how it was after 9/11,” Saylor said.

Faissal Elansari, who is on the Rhode Island mosque’s board, said the community was rallying against letters of hate.

“A lot of brothers and sisters from the Jewish and Christian communities gave us a lot of support, they called and sent support letters,” he said.

The CAIR report comes after the Anti-Defamation League recorded a 34 per cent rise in anti-Semitic acts in 2016.

“The 2016 presidential election and the heightened political atmosphere played a role in the increase,” the ADL said in last month’s report.

Budget 2017: Banks and taxpayers the saviours for Budget repair

Australians will be paying more every year in their Medicare levy, the big banks will face a new levy, those on the dole will face drug tests, while first home buyers will be able to save for a deposit.

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Treasurer Scott Morrison’s pathway to a Budget surplus by 2021 remains intact despite the deficit in 2017-18 increasingly slightly to $29.4 billion, up from $28.7 billion in Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

Following years of fears around ‘debt and deficit’, the Treasurer declared on Tuesday that “we are now moving towards the end of this difficult period”.

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The heavy lifting will be done by the taxpayer, thanks to an increase in the Medicare levy delivering an $8 billion boost to the budget starting in 2019.

Mr Morrison tried to justify the increase by linking it to the costs of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

“Even if we are not impacted directly, this is all our responsibility,” Mr Morrison said.

“Our decision to increase the levy reflects the fact that all Australians have a role to play.”

WATCH: Treasurer Scott Morrison talks to SBS

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The big five major banks have also been hit with a $6 billion levy.

“This represents an additional and fair contribution from our major banks, is similar to measures imposed in other advanced countries, and will even up the playing field for smaller banks,” Mr Morrison said.

Major reform was also announced in areas of housing, welfare, health, and infrastructure.

WATCH: Morrison on Budget balance

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Related readingHousing

The Turnbull government will let first home buyers save up to $30,000 in a super account but crack down on foreign investors as part of a widely-anticipated housing affordability package.

First home buyers will get a tax cut on their first home deposit by being able to salary sacrifice into their super accounts over their compulsory contributions.

Contributions will be taxed at 15 per cent and withdrawals taxed at their marginal rate less 30 percentage points.

Seniors will be encouraged to sell up their homes to free housing stock, by being allowed to make a non-concessional contribution of up to $300,000 into their super accounts from the proceeds of the sale.

WATCH: Morrison on affordable housing

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Tough new rules on foreign investors will mean they will only be allowed to buy up to 50 per cent of new housing developments.

Foreign owners will also face new charges if they leave homes unoccupied.

There will be an annual levy on residential property that’s not occupied or available for rent for at least six months per year. The charge will be the same rate as the foreign investment application fee. This will apply to those who make a foreign investment application for homes from May 9.

Foreign investors will also be barred from accessing capital gains concessions.

WATCH: Morrison on on welfare changes

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Related readingWelfare

Dole recipients will be drug tested, forced to spend more time looking for work, and have their welfare cut under a demerit point system in a tough, new stance on welfare.

Thousands of new welfare recipients will be reeled into a random drug testing trial in three selected locations.

Those who fail the first test will be put on the cashless debit card which will quarantine their payments from drug and alcohol purchases.

Anyone who tests positive twice will be referred to a doctor for treatment of their substance abuse problems.

The number of various welfare payments will also be reduced. One working age payment will replace seven – rolling in the Newstart allowance with the Sickness payment, wife pension, partner allowance, bereavement allowance, Widow B Pension and Widow Allowance.

The government is also imposing a “three strikes and you’re out” policy on those who continually fail to meet their mutual obligations such as looking for work, attending work for the dole, or showing up for appointments.

Jobseekers will accrue demerit points over six months for failing to comply with such obligations and once they reach four points, they’ll be assessed to see if they need more help or face the ‘strikes phase’, where they’ll have their payment reduced or cut entirely if they continually fail their obligations.

Anyone who turns down a job without a proper reason will have their welfare cut for a month. 

WATCH: Morrison on Medicare and PBS

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Health

Australians will be slapped with a 0.5 per cent increase in the Medicare levy to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. That will collect savings of $8.2 billion over forward estimates period.

It will end the years of debate between coalition and Labor about whether or not there’s enough money to ensure Australians with disability can access support under the scheme.

Mr Morrison says the measure will ensure the NDIS was fully funded.

“How do you look someone with a disability in their eye and say we just can’t agree on this, so you’re just going to live with uncertainty under the NDIS,” he told reporters.

He described it as the fair and right thing to do.

“Yes, it’s an insurance levy on all Australians. But it’s all our responsibility,” he said.

“We all can potentially be a recipient or could have been.”

The government is also lifting the freeze on the Medicare benefits schedule and reversing the cuts to bulk-billing incentives for diagnostic imaging and pathology services.

WATCH: Morrison on NDIS

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Related readingBanks

The nation’s big four banks and Macquarie will be slapped with a new levy of six basis points, raising $6.2 billion over the next four years. They will also face bigger fines for misconduct.

Mr Morrison said the banks can afford to do the heavy lifting of budget repair.

In addition, disgruntled bank customers will be able to refer to a new ‘one-stop shop’ called the Australian Financial Complaints Authority where they’ll be able to obtain free binding dispute resolution services.

Banks will also face new penalties – up to $200 million – if they hide misconduct by executives who misbehave. A new regulatory regime will require all senior executives to register with the Australian Prudential Regulations Authority. If they breach any rules they can be disqualified and deregistered from holding executive positions and have their bonuses stripped.

WATCH: Morrison on banking

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Foreign workers

Adding to their crackdown on foreign workers under planned changes to the 457 visa scheme, the government is also imposing a new levy on businesses that employ foreign workers. They’ll be charged between $1200 and $1800 per worker every year on temporary work visas and a $3000 or $5000 one-off levy for those on a permanent skilled visa.

There’s also higher charges on visa application fees.

From July 1, 2017, fees will be indexed in line with inflation, generating $410 million over the forward estimates period.

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$17 Billion in ‘zombie savings’ killed off

The government has finally abandoned unlegislated budget measures from past years – termed “zombie savings” – that failed to pass parliament, which will punch a $17 billion hole in the Budget over five years.

That includes measures to cut the Family Tax Benefit Part B for single parents with a youngest child aged 13–16, and an unpopular policy to make young people wait one month for the dole.

Infrastructure

The government has pledged to spend $75 billion on infrastructure over the next decade. That will include $844 million to upgrade the Bruce Highway and $1.6 billion in road upgrades and other measures in Western Australia.

A $10 billion national rail program will be used for rail projects to link up cities with regions. The fund will also potentially pay for the Western Sydney Airport rail link.

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2017 Budget health reforms welcomed, welfare changes draw criticism

The Medical Association is welcoming major health reforms, saying the government is winning back ground it lost after former Treasurer Joe Hockey’s 2014 Budget.

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But a major crackdown on welfare has drawn criticism from community groups who say it unfairly targets Australia’s most vulnerable.

Australia’s leading medical body has welcomed a move to unfreeze the Medicare rebate so it rises with inflation.

The cost of medicines should also come down, with funding for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme guaranteed.

Michael Gannon is the president of the Australian Medical Association.

He says the Abbott Government’s 2014 Budget was a disaster for healthcare, but this one goes a long way to repairing the damage.

“This means that we will not see patients thinking twice before visiting doctors, and we will see tremendous value that comes from these modest investments the government is making. So many health problems can be fixed by GPs, other specialists, preventing hospital admissions. There are some smart investments in this increased spending.”

Ian Yates, head of the Council of the Ageing, acknowledged there are measures in the Budget that will alleviate some of the pressures on older Australians.

He says older people consistently report that out of pocket expenses in heath is their number one concern.

Mr Yates says COTA supports changes to the Medicare levy and the retention of bulk billing incentives for diagnostics and pathology.

He also backed the restoration of pensioner concession cards for some older Australians and the one-off $75 power rebate for seniors.

“Overall, older Australians will feel mildly positive, in some cases, quite positive about this Budget. Welcome ending the Medicare freeze and a number of other measures in the health system.”

Mr Yates also welcomed measures to increase housing supply, invest in community housing and provide certainty for funding for homelessness services.

However, he says the government has missed an opportunity to focus in on the challenge and opportunities of an ageing population.

Mr Yates says the investment in retraining and reskilling older people doesn’t go far enough to meet what he said was a growing challenge.

While the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) has criticised Budget’s welfare measures.

Welfare recipients who fail to meet their job-seeking obligations will now risk major reductions in their fortnightly payments.

The three-strikes rule will see welfare recipients given demerit points for turning down jobs, missing interviews or failing to keep their appointments.

And the government will experiment with drug-testing welfare recipients, and putting them on welfare debit cards to restrict their access to cash if they fail.

ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie says those on welfare should not be targeted for Budget savings.

“We’ve got a demerit system now for people who are really struggling, trying to meet their obligations on social security. We are deeply disappointed. The government has pursued this line that the problem with social security is that people are not doing the right thing. The overwhelming majority of people in Australia on social security – they are impoverished, they’re living on 38 dollars a day if you’re a single person.”

Treasurer Scott Morrison says a new tax on Australia’s five largest banks will bring in $6 billion over the next four years.

He’s urged the banks not to pass on the cost to consumers.

But Chris Richardson of Deloitte Access Economics says that is exactly what they’ll do.

“In theory this is paid by the banks, in practice there is a relatively large risk that it actually ends up being paid by everybody with a loan – true of families, true of businesses.”

The Budget has a strong focus on infrastructure, with $75 billion allocated over the next decade.

The big-ticket items are a second airport for Sydney, an upgrade to the Snowy Hydro Scheme and a major expansion of inland rail.

But Brendan Lyon, the head of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, says those big projects have distracted the government from less glamorous, general infrastructure funding.

“Tonight’s Budget is a cut in real infrastructure funding, not a boost. It’s a cut of about 7.4 billion dollars compared to the decade-long trend. And it means that we’re going to see less infrastructure built over the next four years, not more.”

Budget 2017: Older migrants to face stricter welfare residency test

More than 2000 new migrants will be barred from the age pension or disability payments in 2018 under tighter eligibility requirements announced by the government as part of the 2017 Budget.

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Pensioners and those claiming the disability support pension (DSP) will be required to have lived in Australia for up to 15 years continuously in order to continue receiving the payments.

The savings measure will save $119 million over five years by imposing stricter residency rules for those claiming the two welfare payments.

From July 2018, applicants will have had to have lived in Australia for at least 15 years continuously before being eligible for either the pension or DSP.

WATCH: Treasurer Scott Morrison talks to SBS

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Applicants will still receive their payments if they have either 10 years of continuous residence with at least five years of that time being during their working life – ie before they’re of age pension age – or if they have lived in Australia for a decade and never received any welfare for five years in total.

The existing requirement is that an applicant must have lived in Australia for 10 years.

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The government estimates the measure will affect about 2390 people per year.

It follows the government’s announcement last week of a new 10-year, $20,000 temporary entry visa for parents of migrants.

The age pension costs the Budget approximately $42 billion.

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WA find puts life on earth 3.5b years ago

Life thrived on land as long as 3.

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48 billion years ago – hundreds of millions of years earlier than was previously thought, scientists have learned.

The discovery raises the possibility that the earliest living things may have evolved on land rather than in the sea – and increases the chances of life on Mars.

Fossil remnants of ancient microbes were unearthed from 3.48 billion-year-old hot spring deposits in a remote region of Western Australia.

Previously, the most ancient evidence of terrestrial life came from South African rocks dating back 2.7 to 2.9 billion years.

“Our exciting findings don’t just extend back the record of life living in hot springs by three billion years, they indicate that life was inhabiting the land much earlier than previously thought, by up to about 580 million years,” lead researcher Tara Djokic, from the University of NSW, said.

“This may have implications for an origin of life in freshwater hot springs on land, rather than the more widely discussed idea that life developed in the ocean and adapted to land later.”

The discovery, reported in the journal Nature Communications, is said to have major implications for the search for life on Mars.

The Red Planet has ancient hot spring deposits similar in age to those that yielded evidence of the ancient microbes in the Pilbara.

“If life can be preserved in hot springs so far back in Earth’s history, then there is a good chance it could be preserved in Martian hot springs too,” Ms Djokic said.

Within the Pilbara deposits, the scientists identified stromatolites, which are layered rock structures created by communities of ancient bugs.

Other signs of early life included preserved bubbles thought to have been trapped in a sticky microbial substance.

The presence of geyserite, a mineral only found in terrestrial hot spring environments, was evidence that the deposits were formed on land and not in the ocean.

New dinosaur with feathers, beak revealed

A clutch of enormous fossil eggs from China has led to the discovery of a new species of giant bird-like dinosaur.

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Flightless Beibeilong sinensis, which lived around 90 million years ago, had feathers, primitive wings and a beak, but dwarfed any of its modern bird relatives.

Based on their analysis of a hatchling that died while emerging from one of the eggs, experts believe the adult creature was around 8m long and weighed three tons.

Other dinosaurs of the same type, known as oviraptorosaurs, have seldom measured more than about 2m.

Several Beibeilong eggs were found in Henan Province, central China, in a ring-shaped clutch which was part of a nest 2-3m in diameter.

The eggs are up to 45cm across and weighed about 5kg.

“For many years, it was a mystery as to what kind of dinosaur laid these enormous eggs,” Professor Darla Zelenitsky, from the University of Calgary, whose team described the fossils in the journal Nature Communications, said.

“Because fossils of large theropods, like tyrannosaurs, were also found in the rocks in Henan, some people initially thought the eggs may have belonged to a tyrannosaur.

“Thanks to this fossil, we now know that these eggs were laid by a gigantic oviraptorosaur, a dinosaur that would have looked a lot like an overgrown cassowary. It would have been a sight to behold with a three-ton animal like this sitting on its nest of eggs.”

The new species of giant oviraptorosaur is thought to be the largest dinosaur known that cared for its young in a similar way to modern birds.

The scientists estimated the size of the adult after studying the bones of the hatchling and making comparisons with other dinosaurs.

It was the stillborn dinosaur that led to the name chosen for the species. Beibeilong sinensis translates as “baby dragon from China”.

Greek, Turkish Cypriots build trust through basketball

The PeacePlayers, one of a number of offshoots of an international group that uses sport to build trust in divided communities, has ballooned since it was set up in 2006.

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It now has more than 250 players and 12 teams that play all over the island, including in Nicosia, on a court at the Ledra Palace hotel in the United Nations-controlled no-man’s-land separating the Greek and Turkish sides of the divided capital.

“PeacePlayers is the bridge where we are building our relationships,” Serife Ertay, one of the group’s Turkish-Cypriot players, said on Tuesday.

PeacePlayers is about to add more coaches and will be able to take in more players following a donation from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which is holding its annual meeting this year in Nicosia.

The bank had hoped to hold its meeting with reunification clearly in sight.

The reunification talks are focused on bringing the island, split along ethnic lines since 1974, under a federal umbrella of two semi-autonomous zones. But they have lost some momentum since the start of the year, causing frustration for diplomats who had seen the chances of a deal as the best in decades.

Harris Georgiades, finance minister of the Greek Cypriot-led government that represents Cyprus in the EU, who was watching the PeacePlayers practice, would not comment on the reunification process when asked by Reuters.

Instead he said both the PeacePlayers group and the EBRD’s decision to hold its meeting on the island were of symbolic importance for Cyprus.

“It is an opportunity for us to portray Cyprus as a safe, stable destination,” Georgiades said.

The Ledra Palace hotel backdrop to Tuesday’s basketball practice has rich historic associations in Cyprus. These days it is used by British troops, but in its heyday was frequented by Hollywood stars.

It was the venue of talks between the then-British colonial administration and Greek Cypriots seeking independence in 1955, it became a sanctuary for stranded tourists during a Turkish invasion in 1974 that followed a brief Greek-inspired coup, and has also been used as a prisoner-of-war exchange point.

For the teenagers taking part in Tuesday’s practice, however, the basketball games are not about politics or even, primarily, about the sport but about making new friends.

“It gives us so many opportunities that other things cannot give us,” said Nicos Mashias, one of the Greek Cypriot PeacePlayers.

Ertay added: “I have made so many friends from the south.”

(Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Gareth Jones)